FERC issues proposed rules to protect grid from geomagnetic disturbances

FERC Seal

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued proposed reliability standards intended to mitigate effects of geomagnetic disturbances on the nation's bulk electricity system.

In May, FERC directed the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to develop and submit new geomagnetic disturbance standards. Utilities are required to comply with NERC reliability standards. FERC last year convened a technical conference on reliability of the bulk power system.

The commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (RM14-1) on Jan. 16 pertaining to a standard offered by NERC to address implementation of operating plans and procedures to mitigate effects of geomagnetic disturbances.

GMDs caused by solar events distort, with varying intensities, the earth's magnetic field. They can have potentially severe, widespread effects on reliable grid operation, including blackouts and damage to critical or vulnerable equipment.

NERC's proposed standard would apply to reliability coordinators and transmission operators with an operator area that includes certain power transformers with terminal voltage greater than 200 kilovolts. The standard has three requirements:

  • Reliability coordinators must develop, maintain and implement a GMD operating plan that coordinates the GMD operating procedures or processes within the reliability coordinator area;
  • Reliability coordinators must disseminate space weather information;
  • Transmission operators must develop operating procedures or processes to address GMD events.

In a second stage, NERC has until January 2015 to file standards identifying "benchmark GMD events" that specify the severity of GMD events that owners and operators must assess for potential effects on the bulk power system. FERC said those standards must require owners and operators to assess the potential effects of specified benchmark GMD events on equipment and the system as a whole. They would be required to develop and implement plans to protect against instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading failures.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking may be obtained from FERC's Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2014/011614/E-3.pdf. Comments are due 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

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