Opening access to a key PJM Interconnection committee meeting would limit candid dialogue between PJM members and its board, according to comments filed Tuesday at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the grid operator, generators and a group of utilities that include AES Ohio, Dominion Energy and Exelon.
FERC should reject the West Virginia Public Service Commission’s complaint seeking entry to PJM’s Liaison Committee, which is open only to PJM members, partly because no rules have been violated, they said.
The complaint was supported by the PJM Industrial Customer Coalition, consumer group Public Citizen and Monitoring Analytics, the grid operator’s independent market monitor, which filed a similar complaint Monday.
PJM is committed to transparency and open deliberation, holding more than 400 stakeholder meetings each year that are open to all interested parties, the grid operator said in response to the PSC complaint.
Also, PJM’s board has closed-door meetings at least annually with the Organization of PJM States Inc., or OPSI, which represents state utility commissions, the grid operator said. The Liaison Committee isn’t a standing committee, as the PSC contends, and therefore isn’t open to state commissions, according to PJM.
“So long as there are direct and reasonable means of communication with the PJM board (be it through the Liaison Committee for PJM members or the OPSI/PJM board-to-board meetings for the PJM states), the commission should be reluctant to step in and micro-manage how these committees operate,” the grid operator told FERC.
A group of PJM utilities echoed the grid operator, saying states and PJM members have opportunities for closed-door meetings with PJM’s board.
“The same opportunity for nonpublic dialogue that is afforded to OPSI should also continue to be afforded to PJM members via the [Liaison Committee,]” the utilities said. “To alter the latter would be discriminatory.”
The meetings, where no votes are taken, allow for “freewheeling discussions outside of the public spotlight, without the concern of anything being misquoted out of context, and without the need to posture for a viewing audience,” the utilities said.
The Liaison Committee charter bars company-specific lobbying during the meetings, according to the utilities.
The West Virginia PSC has “meaningful participation” with the PJM board via the private OPSI meetings that more than satisfies PJM’s governance obligations, according to the PJM Power Providers Group, or P3, which represents power plant owners.
If FERC decides to act on the complaint, P3 said it would be open to broader reforms of the grid operator’s governance structure.
In support of the complaint, Monitoring Analytics said excluding state commissions from Liaison Committee meetings violates PJM’s governance rules.
Contrary to the complaint’s opponents, the market monitor said the Liaison Committee is a standing committee and therefore open to state regulators.
In its own complaint, the market monitor said it should be allowed to attend the meetings. “It is inconsistent with the independence of PJM, the PJM board and the independence of the market monitor to exclude the market monitor from any stakeholder process,” Monitoring Analytics said.
State commissions would benefit from having access to the diverse viewpoints that are shared by PJM stakeholder sectors with the grid operator’s board, according to comments filed by the PJM Industrial Customer Coalition.
Public Citizen said the West Virginia PSC’s complaint doesn’t go far enough.
“A commission order granting state regulators access to PJM’s Liaison Committee will leave unaddressed the fact that other similarly situated non-PJM members (such as Public Citizen) are also denied access to PJM’s Liaison Committee and Finance Committee meetings,” the consumer watchdog group said.
Public Citizen urged FERC to issue a “notice of inquiry” to begin exploring governance reforms for regional transmission organizations.
Meanwhile, a bill is advancing in the Maryland legislature that would require utilities in the state to file annual reports with the Maryland Public Service Commission on their votes at PJM, including at lower-level committee meetings, which are confidential. The utilities would have to explain how each vote was in the public interest.
HB 1186 cleared the Maryland House on a 100-35 vote on March 11. The Maryland Senate Education, Energy, and Environment Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the bill, which is opposed by Exelon, FirstEnergy and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.
Separately, OPSI wants to force open a closed portion of an April 3 Liaison Committee meeting that will discuss PJM’s contract with Monitoring Analytics, according to a March 22 letter to the board.
“There is an appearance of impropriety when a decision maker seeks advice, outside of an open forum, from participants that stand to gain or lose by the decisions made,” OPSI said. “Observing the member feedback directly within the context of the meeting with the PJM board is the only way that we can be confident of fully understanding the nuance in the positions of the PJM market segments, a confidence that we will not have if we are restricted to reading a limited sanitized summary of points made by various market segments.”