NERC Calls for Gas Availability to Be Incorporated into Reliability Assessments

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), in a special reliability assessment released on Wednesday, called for a number of changes to address the increased reliance on natural gas for power generation, among them incorporating gas availability and gas supply issues into electric reliability assessments.

The report, Accommodating an Increased Dependence on Natural Gas for Electric Power. Phase II: A Vulnerability and Scenario Assessment for the North American Bulk Power System , notes that natural gas is projected to provide 50% of peak power demand by 2015, making the reliability of gas supply critical to the reliability of the bulk power system. “Impacts of potential wide-spread common-mode failure events, such as a major failure along an interstate gas pipeline or major supply source, although rare, must be well understood to foster enhanced planning and design insights.” Though rare events, the report said, “a major failure could result in a loss of electric generating capacity that could exceed the electric reserves available to compensate for these losses.”

The report addressed a range of issues, but it made several recommendations specific to gas supply, in particular that market rules be adjusted to support higher levels of fuel certainty. “Although generators may have contractual obligations to perform,” it noted, “performance incentives, particularly in competitive wholesale electricity markets, may not be strong enough to incentivize generators to procure firm or otherwise reliable fuel supplies.” It also recommended that gas availability issues be incorporated into NERC long-term and seasonal reliability assessments.

In addition, NERC called for enhanced data sharing and communication to prevent problems in fuel supply, particularly in high-demand winter and summer periods, something the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been working toward over the past year. FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller, who has been leading the effort, made a similar call for enhanced communication and reliability planning at last week’s ELECTRIC POWER Conference & Exposition.

Sources: NERC, FERC

Thomas W. Overton, JD, Gas Technology Editor (@thomas_overton).

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