Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Matthew Vlissides (Legal Information),Office of the General Counsel,Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,888 First Street NE.,Washington, DC 20426,(202) 502-8408,
1. Pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the Federal Power Act (FPA),
2. We take this action based on government-sponsored studies and NERC studies that conclude that GMD events can have an adverse, wide-area impact on the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System.
3. The seriousness of the risk posed by GMDs to the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System was expressed at a Technical Conference held on April 30, 2012.
4. Currently, GMD vulnerabilities are not adequately addressed in the Reliability Standards.
5. GMD events affect the Bulk-Power System by introducing geomagnetically-induced currents
6. Given the potentially severe, wide-spread impact to the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System from GMD events and the absence of existing Reliability Standards to address it, the Commission proposes to direct the ERO to file with the Commission for approval Reliability Standards that address this
7. We recognize that, depending on the results of the initial and ongoing assessments that would be required under this proposed rule, there could be substantial costs associated with some measures to protect against damage to the Bulk-Power System from GMDs.
8. Section 215 of the FPA requires the Commission to certify an ERO to develop mandatory and enforceable Reliability Standards, subject to Commission review and approval.
9. Pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the FPA, the Commission has the authority, upon its own motion or upon complaint, to order the ERO to submit to the Commission a proposed Reliability Standard or a modification to a Reliability Standard that addresses a specific matter if the Commission considers such a new or modified Reliability Standard appropriate to carry out section 215 of the FPA.
10. The impact of GMDs on the Bulk-Power System has been evaluated in several government-sponsored studies and NERC reports. The EMP Commission issued reports assessing the threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack in 2004 and 2008, which also addressed the effects of geomagnetic storms on the electric power infrastructure.
11. The Commission conducted a staff-led Technical Conference on April 30, 2012 to discuss the effects of GMDs on the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System. NERC, government agencies, industry stakeholders, and other interested entities attended the Technical Conference and submitted post-Technical Conference comments.
12. The interaction of the Earth's magnetic field and solar events can cause low frequency GICs to flow along the surface of the Earth and in the oceans. Reliability issues arise when GICs enter the Bulk-Power System from the Earth. Since many Bulk-Power System transformers are grounded, the GIC appears as electrical current to the Bulk-Power System and flows through the ground connection and conductors, such as transformers and transmission lines.
13. GICs can cause transformer cores to become “saturated,” resulting in loss of reactive power (VARs), the introduction of harmonic distortions, and possible physical damage to the transformer.
14. The Oak Ridge Study identified factors that determine the severity of GMD events, including: (1) Location and strength of the underlying solar event; (2) ground conductivity in the affected locations (i.e., the geology of the location); (3) orientation of the transmission lines; (4) length of transmission lines; and (5) grid construction.
15. As discussed below, the Commission finds that there is a gap in the Reliability Standards regarding GMDs. Therefore, in order to carry out section 215 of the FPA, the Commission proposes to direct the ERO to develop and file for approval Reliability Standards that address the potentially severe, wide-spread impact of GMD events on the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System.
16. We propose that the ERO develop and file the GMD Reliability Standards in two stages. In the first stage, within 90 days of the effective date of a final rule in this proceeding, the Commission proposes to direct NERC to file one or more Reliability Standards that require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate the effects of GMDs consistent with the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System. In the second stage, the Commission proposes to direct NERC to file one or more Reliability Standards, within six months of the effective date of a final rule in this proceeding, that require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to assess the impact of GMDs on Bulk-Power System equipment and the Bulk-Power System as a whole. Based on those assessments, the Reliability Standards would require owners and operators to develop and implement a plan so that instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System, caused by damage to critical or vulnerable Bulk-Power System equipment, or otherwise, will not occur as a result of a GMD. This plan cannot be limited to operational procedures or enhanced training alone, but should, subject to the needs indentified in the assessments, contain strategies for protecting against the potential impact of GMDs based on factors such as the age, condition, technical specifications, or location of specific equipment. These strategies could include automatically blocking geomagnetically induced currents from entering the Bulk-Power System, instituting specification requirements for new equipment, inventory management, and isolating certain equipment that is not cost effective to retrofit.
17. In proposing to direct the ERO to submit Reliability Standards that address the impact of GMD events on the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System, we are not proposing specific requirements or otherwise pre-judging what the ERO may eventually submit. Instead, we identify concerns that we believe should be addressed in any GMD Reliability Standards. We expect the ERO to support its proposed Reliability Standards and explain how they address the Commission's concerns.
18. Requiring operational procedures, while not a complete solution, constitutes a first step to addressing the GMD reliability gap because they can be implemented relatively quickly.
19. Operational procedures may help alleviate abnormal system conditions due to transformer absorption of reactive power during GMD events, helping to stabilize system voltage swings, and may potentially isolate some equipment from being damaged or misoperated. The NERC Interim GMD Report identifies examples of operational procedures to mitigate GMD events (i.e., the effects of GICs), including: reduction of equipment loading (e.g., by starting off-line generation), unloading the reactive load of operating generation, reductions of system voltage, and system and/or equipment isolation through reconfiguration of the transmission system.
20. While the proposed Reliability Standards should not necessarily specify what operational procedures must be adopted, the ERO should give owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System guidance as to what procedures have been or are expected to be effective in mitigating the effects of GMDs consistent with the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System. Moreover, the proposed Reliability Standards should address the coordination of operational procedures among responsible entities across regions.
21. We do not propose to direct a specific implementation schedule for the proposed Reliability Standards, but the Commission encourages the ERO to require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to implement the required operational procedures 90 days after Commission approval of the Reliability Standards. Following implementation, the Commission proposes to require NERC to provide periodic reports assessing the effectiveness of the operational procedures in mitigating the effects of GMD events. In addition, NERC should periodically review the required operational procedures and recommend to owners and operators that they incorporate lessons-learned and new research findings.
22. In addition to developing Reliability Standards that require operational procedures during the first stage, the Commission also proposes to accept aspects of the “Initial Actions” proposal set forth in NERC's May 21, 2012 post-Technical Conference comments. Specifically, NERC proposed to “identify facilities most at-risk from severe geomagnetic disturbance” and to “conduct wide-area geomagnetic disturbance vulnerability assessment.”
23. To address GMDs comprehensively, the Commission proposes to direct NERC to develop, in a second stage, Reliability Standards that require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to conduct initial and on-going assessments of the potential impact of GMDs on Bulk-Power System equipment and on the Bulk-Power System as a whole. Based on those assessments, the Reliability Standards would require owners and operators to develop and implement a plan so that instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System, caused by damage to critical or vulnerable Bulk-Power System equipment, or otherwise, will not occur as a result of a GMD. This plan cannot be limited to operational procedures or enhanced training alone, but should, subject to the needs identified in the assessments, contain strategies for protecting against the potential impact of GMDs based on factors such as the age, condition, technical specifications, or location of specific equipment. These strategies could include automatically blocking geomagnetically induced currents from entering the Bulk-Power System, instituting specification requirements for new equipment, inventory management, and isolating certain equipment that is not cost effective to retrofit. While the Commission proposes to direct the ERO to submit the proposed second stage Reliability Standards within six months of the effective date of a final rule in this proceeding, the Commission seeks comment on the feasibility of a six-month deadline.
24. We propose to direct the filing of these second stage GMD Reliability Standards because of two concerns with relying on operational procedures alone: (1) Owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System may not have enough time to initiate effective operating procedures after being warned of a GMD event; and (2) operational procedures may not prevent permanent damage to Bulk-Power System equipment.
25. We recognize that the NERC Interim GMD Report concludes that a prolonged blackout due to extensive
26. Below, we offer guidance on the assessments of Bulk-Power System vulnerability to GMDs and potential measures for automatically protecting critical or vulnerable components. In addition, recognizing the potential for substantial investments of time and resources to implement these Reliability Standards, we offer guidance on an implementation schedule, which will likely consist of an extended, multi-phase process. The Commission seeks comment from NERC and other interested entities on all aspects of this proposal.
27. The Commission proposes to direct the ERO to develop Reliability Standards that require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to conduct vulnerability assessments to determine how critical or vulnerable Bulk-Power System components react to simulated GICs of varying intensities.
28. First, the Reliability Standards should contain uniform evaluation criteria for owners and operators to follow when conducting their assessments. As the Commission noted with respect to other reliability assessments, uniformity increases the accuracy of transmission system reliability assessments and consequently enhances overall reliability.
29. Second, the assessments should, through studies and simulations, evaluate the primary and secondary effects of GICs on Bulk-Power System transformers, including the effects of GICs originating from and passing to other regions.
30. Third, the assessments should evaluate the effects of GICs on other Bulk-Power System equipment, system operations, and system stability, including the anticipated loss of critical or vulnerable devices or elements resulting from GIC-related issues.
31. Fourth, in conjunction with assessments by owners and operators of their own Bulk-Power System components, wide-area or Regional assessments of GIC impacts should be performed. A severe GMD event can cause simultaneous stresses at multiple locations on the Bulk-Power System, potentially resulting in a multiple-outage event.
32. Fifth, the assessments should be periodically updated, taking into account new facilities, modifications to existing facilities, and new information, including new research on GMDs, to determine whether there are resulting changes in GMD impacts that require modifications to Bulk-Power System mitigation schemes.
33. The Commission seeks comments from NERC and other interested entities on all aspects of this proposal.
34. While we do not propose to require a particular solution in the second stage Reliability Standards to address GMDs, we expect that some assessments will demonstrate that automatic blocking is necessary in some instances. The Commission, above, proposes to direct the ERO to develop Reliability Standards that require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to develop and implement a plan so that instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System, caused by damage to critical or vulnerable Bulk-Power System equipment, or otherwise, will not occur as a result of a GMD. Automatic blocking measures address the major concerns with relying exclusively on operational procedures to mitigate GMDs (i.e., the short period of time to react to a GMD event and the potential consequences of not reacting fast enough). Blocking can prevent the flow of GICs through power transformers and the Bulk-Power System.
35. The Commission does not propose to direct the ERO to require a particular automatic blocking technology, where blocking is necessary. Instead, the Commission proposes to direct the ERO to identify in the proposed Reliability Standards what would constitute appropriate automatic blocking measures. In defining what is an
36. The use of automatic blocking devices, such as transmission line series capacitors and transformer neutral blocking, are possible measures.
37. The Commission seeks comments from NERC and other interested entities on all aspects of this proposal.
38. The second stage Reliability Standards will likely require an extended, multi-phase implementation period given the time needed to conduct the required assessments and the time and cost of installing any required automatic protection measures. Although the Commission does not propose to direct the ERO to develop a specific implementation plan, we believe it would be appropriate for the proposed Reliability Standard to include an implementation schedule that requires owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to prioritize implementation so that components considered vital to the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System are provided with any necessary automatic protection measures in the earliest phase of the plan.
39. The Commission seeks comments from NERC and other interested entities on an implementation plan.
40. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations require approval of certain information collection requirements imposed by agency rules. Upon approval of a collection(s) of information, OMB will assign an OMB control number and an expiration date. Respondents subject to the filing requirements of an agency rule will not be penalized for failing to respond to these collections of information unless the collections of information display a valid OMB control number. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requires each federal agency to seek and obtain OMB approval before undertaking a collection of information directed to ten or more persons, or contained in a rule of general applicability.
41. The Commission is submitting these reporting requirements to OMB for its review and approval under section 3507(d) of the PRA. Comments are solicited on the Commission's need for this information, whether the information will have practical utility, ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected, and any suggested methods for minimizing the respondent's burden, including the use of automated information techniques.
42. The Public Reporting Burden and cost related to the proposed rule in Docket No. RM12-22-000 are covered by, and already included in, the existing FERC-725, Certification of Electric Reliability Organization; Procedures for Electric Reliability (OMB Control No. 1902-0225). FERC-725 includes the ERO's overall responsibility for developing Reliability Standards, such as the Reliability Standards for Geomagnetic Disturbances.
43. Internal review: The Commission has reviewed the proposed changes and has determined that the changes are necessary to ensure the reliability and integrity of the Nation's Bulk-Power System.
44. Interested persons may obtain information on the reporting requirements by contacting: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, DC 20426 [Attention: Ellen Brown, Office of the Executive Director, email:
45. The Commission is required to prepare an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement for any action that may have a significant adverse effect on the human environment.
46. The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA)
47. By only proposing to direct NERC, the Commission-certified ERO, to develop GMD Reliability Standards, this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will not have a significant or substantial impact on entities other than NERC. The ERO develops and files with the Commission for approval Reliability Standards affecting the Bulk-Power System, which represents: (a) A total electricity demand of 830 gigawatts (830,000 megawatts) and (b) more than $1 trillion worth of assets. Therefore, the Commission certifies that this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
48. Any Reliability Standards proposed by NERC in compliance with
49. The Commission invites interested persons to submit comments on the matters and issues proposed in this notice to be adopted, including any related matters or alternative proposals that commenters may wish to discuss. Comments are due December 24, 2012. Comments must refer to Docket No. RM12-22-000, and must include the commenter's name, the organization they represent, if applicable, and their address in their comments.
50. The Commission encourages comments to be filed electronically via the eFiling link on the Commission's web site at
51. Commenters that are not able to file comments electronically must send an original of their comments to: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Secretary of the Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, DC 20426.
52. All comments will be placed in the Commission's public files and may be viewed, printed, or downloaded remotely as described in the Document Availability section below. Commenters on this proposal are not required to serve copies of their comments on other commenters.
53. In addition to publishing the full text of this document in the
54. From the Commission's Home Page on the Internet, this information is available on eLibrary. The full text of this document is available on eLibrary in PDF and Microsoft Word format for viewing, printing, and/or downloading. To access this document in eLibrary, type the docket number excluding the last three digits of this document in the docket number field.
55. User assistance is available for eLibrary and the Commission's Web site during normal business hours from the Commission's Online Support at 202-502-6652 (toll free at 1-866-208-3676) or email at
By direction of the Commission.