Explaining that its tariff prevents it from extending a project’s commercial operation date, or COD, by more than three years, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc. urged FERC to dismiss a complaint challenging its refusal to confirm that it will not terminate the generator interconnection agreement for Merricourt Power Partners’ planned wind farm on Dec. 1.
“Merricourt already has missed its originally-targeted COD of Dec. 1, 2012, and has nearly used all of the three-year period post COD, as provided in its agreement,” MISO said. “A request to extend the COD by four years is governed by Section 4.4.4 of MISO’s procedures … which does not permit such extensions.”
Citing MISO insistence that the time is not right to address the issue because the project’s deadline for achieving commercial operations under the agreement has not yet passed, Merricourt in its Aug. 17 complaint told FERC the grid operator’s inaction is putting the future of the developer’s planned 150-MW wind project in southeastern North Dakota at risk.
The generator interconnection agreement for the project established a COD of Dec. 1, 2012, and provides that MISO may terminate the agreement if the project has not achieved commercial operations within three years of that date. Although Merricourt is “poised to put all the pieces in place to finish its generating facility … by the end of next year,” it “cannot prudently initiate construction” until the grid operator has provided assurances that “continued interconnection service will be available to the project as of and after Dec. 31, 2016,” the complaint explained.
Merricourt accordingly asked FERC to mandate that MISO amend the generator interconnection agreement to extend the COD to Dec. 31, 2016.
But MISO argued that Merrifield “misstates the applicable standard” here by mistakenly referencing a provision of the generator interconnection agreement that addresses situations in which MISO considers the termination of a project for failure to meet its COD. That provision “does not entitle Merricourt to a preemptive determination of a change in its COD milestone,” MISO said.
The question at issue here, according to the grid operator, is not whether MISO has appropriately sought termination under the agreement, but rather “whether Merricourt can extend its COD for an additional year beyond the three year ‘overrun period’ permitted by the agreement.” MISO said the “appropriate standard for a change in COD of more than three years is Section 4.4.4 of the procedures, under which the extension sought by Merricourt is not permitted.”
Section 4.4.4 specifically states that a change to either the COD or the in-service date in a generator interconnection agreement that extends those dates by more than three years “is a material modification” that triggers the need for a new interconnection request, MISO explained.
Moreover, Merricourt failed to show that MISO’s tariff or its treatment of the project is unjust and unreasonable or that the extension is justified under a standard FERC developed in a case involving Lakeswind Power Partners LLC for determining whether such an extension is justified, according to the grid operator.
Under the Lakeswind standard, FERC considers whether the requested extension would harm lower queued generators or create uncertainty in the MISO queue due to the project’s speculative nature, the grid operator noted. In this case, MISO said, the “harm to other interconnection customers is that they will continue to face increased uncertainty, as they have since 2012, because they will not know whether [the project] will proceed.” Merricourt also has not yet signed a power purchase agreement for the facility, and the fact that it “is close” to doing so “does not demonstrate that its project is not speculative,” the grid operator added.
While MISO acknowledged that it may need to develop a generic process for addressing extension requests such as Merricourt’s – and in fact said it “welcomes commission guidance in this area” given the number of similarly projects – it insisted that the instant proceeding “is not an appropriate avenue to consider” such a general policy due to its fact-specific nature. The grid operator recalled that Merricourt initially followed its advice to present its concerns to MISO’s interconnection process task force, but rather than awaiting the outcome of that effort filed the complaint.
“Merricourt circumvented the stakeholder process” and should not be rewarded for doing so, MISO said. (EL15-90)
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