As federal regulators consider reforming rules for electric transmission planning and cost allocation, NRECA is making the case that any grid transformation must ensure the availability of affordable, reliable electricity to every community, including rural America.

In its Oct. 12 comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, NRECA underscored the need to keep costs just and reasonable and to retain flexibility as a key component in future transmission development. NRECA represents more than 900 electric cooperatives throughout the nation.

“Any transition must ensure the availability of affordable, reliable electricity to every community—including the rural communities and the 92% of persistent-poverty counties that electric cooperatives serve,” NRECA told the commission.

“The costs of this transition, including the investment in additional transmission facilities, should not be placed on the backs of communities, including marginalized rural communities, that will not enjoy commensurate benefits.”

FERC solicited public comments in advance of a proposed rulemaking to update 10-year-old processes for transmission planning, cost allocation and generator interconnection as the country’s energy supply shifts to lower-emission resources. The commission intends to complete the rulemaking by the end of 2022.

Electric co-ops may be affected by the rulemaking in various ways as load-serving entities, transmission owners and operators, transmission customers, generation owners and operators, wholesale electricity market participants, and as owners, operators and users of the bulk power system.

In addition to advocating for keeping costs down and retaining flexibility to meet regional energy needs, NRECA outlined several other recommendations for the commission to consider:

• Public utility transmission providers must participate in a regional transmission planning process that has a regional cost allocation method for new transmission.

• Generation interconnection reforms must not impose undue costs and risks to the customers of load-serving entities.

• Transmission planning reforms must ensure that load-serving entities have facilities necessary to provide reliable service and meet long-term power supply needs.

• Federal law and policy must provide a “level playing field” for co-ops to plan and invest in new transmission infrastructure.

Co-ops have experienced significant transmission cost increases in recent years and remain concerned about further burdening their members.

“FERC needs to address the impact any transmission planning reform may have on co-ops’ ability to serve their consumers and fairly allocate costs of new transmission resulting from these reforms in a way that acknowledges the entities that will benefit the most,” said Mary Ann Ralls, NRECA senior director of regulatory affairs.

“We will continue to work with the commission to ensure our members’ interests and perspectives are included on this very important and forward-looking rulemaking.”