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Wind complaint overblown: NRECA

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should dismiss a wind industry complaint that challenges the Bonneville Power Administration’s practice of curtailing wind generators during periods of low demand, NRECA asserted.

Five wind generators, including Iberdrola Renewables, PacifiCorp, NextEra Energy Resources, Horizon Wind Energy and Invenergy Wind North America, have asked FERC to overturn BPA’s policy, denouncing it as discriminatory.

NRECA sought dismissal of the complaint on procedural and substantive grounds in its July 19 filing (Docket EL11-44).

The controversy stems from BPA’s “environmental redispatch,” which curtails some fossil-fuel and wind generation during times of a hydropower surplus to keep the Northwest grid in balance. Under the policy, which will be in place until March 30, 2012, BPA first limits generation at coal and natural gas facilities. If that fails to balance supply and demand, the federal utility cuts back on the region’s wind generation.

Bonneville said that this practice helps it maintain transmission system reliability while avoiding violating environmental laws with too much spill, which could increase levels of dissolved gas at several dams in the Columbia River Basin and harm endangered species of salmon and steelhead.

BPA provides the wind producers no-cost hydropower so they can meet commitments. However, the generators object because they depend on designated levels of production to defray their expenses through state and federal tax incentives and renewable energy certificates.

In its filing, NRECA pointed out that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, not FERC, has exclusive jurisdiction over the BPA actions cited in the complaint.

Beyond that, the association emphasized, BPA is providing transmission service in accordance with FERC’s rules. No undue discrimination is occurring, it said, because the commission is curtailing its own non-hydro generation on the same terms and conditions as it is curtailing third-party generation.

Rich Meyer, NRECA senior regulatory counsel, pointed out that the proceeding is important to the BPA preference power customers among the association’s membership. And in a larger sense, he said, “It is important to ensure that the government does not disregard other existing policies and statutes in favor of wind and against other generation sources.”