On March 18, in a somewhat unprecedented move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) have temporarily suspended or relaxed certain utility regulations for various periods of time. This allows utilities more flexibility in dealing with the unique situations that COVID-19 brings to ensure that workers remain safe and people have service.
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 stated, “FERC and NERC recognize the uncertainties regarding the response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak and will continue to evaluate the situation to determine whether to extend these dates. Our shared goal is to ensure all registered entities balance the concerns for the health and welfare of their workforce while staying focused on the mission of supplying power to consumers across North America.”