On March 18, in a somewhat unprecedented move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) temporarily suspended or relaxed certain utility regulations to give utilities more flexibility in response to COVID-19. In a joint statement, FERC and NERC said they are “taking steps to ensure that operators of the bulk electric system can focus their resources on keeping people safe and the lights on during this unprecedented public health emergency.”
The two organizations are using regulatory discretion when considering the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in complying with reliability standards in three specific areas:
- The coronavirus will be considered an acceptable basis for noncompliance with obtaining and maintaining personnel certification, for the period of March 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.
- COVID-19 will be an acceptable reason for case-by-case noncompliance with reliability standard requirements that involve periodic actions taken between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020.
- Finally, regional entities will postpone on-site audits, certifications and other on-site activities until July 31, 2020, at the earliest.
The release also states, “FERC and NERC recognize the uncertainties regard- ing the response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak and will continue to evaluate the situation to determine whether to extend these dates.”