On April 1 and 10, 2020 in AC20-81, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) asked FERC for a waiver related to short-term debt in the AFUDC calculation. SDG&E requested to modify its existing AFUDC rate calculation in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, beginning on March 1, 2020. SDG&E stated that it may significantly increase the amount of short-term debt and cash reserves it carries in response to the COVID-19 emergency. FERC approved the request and told SDG&E that it must disclose its application of this waiver and calculation of AFUDC in its FERC Form No. 1, Annual Report of Major Electric Utilities, Licensees and Others (Form 1).
SDG&E proposed to use a methodology for calculating its AFUDC that will enable it to exclude certain portions of its short-term debt from its AFUDC rate calculation, limited to a specific floor. Specifically, SDG&E proposed to first apply existing waivers previously granted by the Commission to its average short-term debt balances to arrive at a net average short-term debt balance. Next, SDG&E proposed to compare the net average short-term debt balance to an established floor of $15.2 million. If the net average short-term debt balance is less than $15.2 million, SDG&E proposed to include the net average short-term debt balance in the calculation of its AFUDC rate. If the net average short-term debt balance exceeds the $15.2 million floor and SDG&E is also holding cash and cash equivalents equal to or greater than that excess, SDG&E proposed to include the established floor of $15.2 million of short-term debt balance in the calculation of its AFUDC rate.
FERC’s accounting regulations and precedent requires the maximum AFUDC rate to be computed by considering short-term debt as the first source of construction financing. This is based on the premise that short-term debt is not used elsewhere in the development of rates. Historically, the Commission has only provided exceptions to this AFUDC requirement in unique situations where certain amounts of short-term debt were a defined cost in the setting of rates. However, SDG&E’s need to maintain liquidity and protect against financial market uncertainty during this unique state of emergency also warrants exception.
 See Docket Nos. AC16-194-000 (granting SDG&E exclusion from its AFUDC calculation short-term debt used to finance net revenue under-collections recorded in SDG&E’s regulatory balancing and memo accounts); AC15-58-000 (granting SDG&E exclusion for short-term debt associated with the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station); and AC13-96-000 (granting SDG&E exclusion from its AFUDC calculation short-term debt used to finance nuclear fuel inventors and customer hedging requirements).
 SDG&E represents that it calculated a floor of $15.2 million by taking a three-year average (2017, 2018, and 2019) of the short-term debt included in its AFUDC calculation.
 See Order Adopting Amendment to Uniform System of Accounts for Public Utilities and Licensees and for Natural Gas Companies, Order No. 561, 57 F.P.C. 608 (1977) at p. 1.
The following describes the different types of reliability projects and their cost allocation approach in PJM:
RTEP (Regional Transmission Expansion Plan) Reliability Projects
Description and Cost Allocation
(Reliability Projects are Required Transmission Enhancements that are included in the RTEP to address one or more reliability violations or to address operational adequacy and performance issues)
1. Regional Facilities
Required Transmission Enhancements included in the RTEP that are transmission facilities that: (a) are AC facilities that operate at or above 500 kV; (b) are double-circuit AC facilities that operate at or above 345 kV; (c) are AC or DC shunt reactive resources connected to a facility from (a) or (b); or (d) are DC facilities that meet the necessary PJM.
Costs allocated using a hybrid cost allocation method – 50% allocated on a load-ratio share basis and 50% allocated using solution-based distribution factor (DFAX) method
2. Necessary Lower Voltage Facilities
Required Transmission Enhancements included in the RTEP that are lower voltage facilities that must be constructed or reinforced to support new Regional Facilities.
Costs allocated using a hybrid cost allocation method – 50% allocated on a load-ratio share basis and 50% allocated using solution-based distribution factor (DFAX) method
3. Lower Voltage Facilities
Required Transmission Enhancements that: (a) are not Regional Facilities; and (b) are not “Necessary Lower Voltage Facilities.
100% allocated using solution-based DFAX method
4. Local Planning (Form 715) Facilities
Projects resulting from Annual Transmission Planning and Evaluation Report that any transmitting utility that operates integrated transmission facilities at or above 100 kV must file with the Commission. Form No. 715 requires submission of transmission planning reliability criteria that the transmission owner uses to assess and test the strength and limits of its transmission system.
Allocated as Regional Facilities, Necessary Lower Voltage Facilities or Lower Voltage Facilities, depending into which category the Local Planning Facility fits.
In developing the RTEP, PJM identifies transmission projects to address different criteria, including PJM planning procedures, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Reliability Standards, Regional Entity reliability principles and standards, and individual transmission owner Form No. 715 local planning criteria.
 Per Schedule 12 of the PJM OATT
 The Solution-Based DFAX method evaluates the projected relative use on the new Reliability Project by the load in each zone and withdrawals by merchant transmission facilities, and through this power flow analysis, identifies projected benefits for individual entities in relation to power flows.
 Compliance filing pending at FERC in Docket No. ER15-1344.
In January 23, 200 in ER15-1436, FERC determined that Entergy’s proposal to include prepaid and accrued pension costs in its transmission formula rate has not been shown to be just and reasonable. FERC’s finding is without prejudice to Entergy making a future filing that adequately demonstrates that its future proposal, including its methodology for calculating prepaid and accrued pension costs, is just and reasonable.
First, FERC described pension accounting and when it is appropriate to include prepaid pension costs or accrued pension costs in rate base. Prepaid and accrued pension costs can arise when a utility makes contributions to fund a pension trust in order to meet employee pension plan obligations. The costs associated with the pension plans that are reported on the utility’s income statement are referred to as the utility’s “pension expense” or “net periodic pension cost.” Pension expense for a given year includes pension obligations accrued that year, interest, and the return on the assets in the trust (specifically, the components of pension expense are service cost, interest cost, actual return on plan assets, gain or loss, amortization of unrecognized prior service cost, and amortization of the unrecognized net obligation of asset). While pension obligations and interest increase pension expense, the return on the assets in the trust will generally decrease pension expense. A utility generally receives recovery of pension costs based on the amount of pension expense recorded on the books. Accordingly, a prepaid pension cost (an asset) is the amount by which cumulative contributions to a pension trust exceed cumulative pension expense. An accrued pension cost (a liability) is the amount by which cumulative pension expense exceeds cumulative contributions. As a general matter, it is just and reasonable for a utility to include prepaid pension costs in rate base when its pension expense recovered from customers is less than its contributions to fund pension costs (increase to rate base). Likewise, it is just and reasonable for a utility to include accrued pension costs in rate base when it has recovered pension expense from customers in excess of its pension costs (reduction to rate base).
Entergy states that its independent actuary calculates prepaid pension costs by taking the pension plan’s Funded Status (which is Fair Value of Plan Assets minus Projected Benefit Obligation) for the year and then backing out Unrecognized Gains/Losses. This can be reflected in the following formula:
Prepaid or (Accrued) Pension Cost = Fair Value of Plan Assets – Projected Benefit Obligation + Unrecognized Net (Gain) or Loss
FERC found that Entergy had not demonstrated that its proposed formula for calculating prepaid pension costs is just and reasonable. Consistent with the above explanation, the appropriate way to calculate prepaid pension costs includable in rate base would be to calculate the cumulative differences between each year’s pension contributions made by Entergy and pension expenses. Entergy proposes to use a different formula (i.e., Funded Status minus Unrecognized Gains and Losses). Although Entergy asserts that this formula leads to the same result, we find that Entergy has not adequately supported this claim.
Specifically, Entergy’s proposed formula includes components that Entergy has not fully explained and that may not be appropriate to include in the calculation of prepaid pension costs to be included in rate base. For instance, although Entergy argues that it is reasonable to calculate prepaid pension costs by starting with the plan’s Funded Status and backing out Unrecognized Gains/Losses, Entergy does not adequately explain what comprises Unrecognized Gains/Losses or why backing out those amounts to compute prepaid pension costs in rate base yields a just and reasonable result. Without additional explanation, we are unable to evaluate whether Unrecognized Gains/Losses are an appropriate component to include in the calculation of prepaid pension costs to be included in rate base.
Furthermore, Entergy did not explain why using the Funded Status is an appropriate methodology to calculate prepaid pension costs in rate base. Entergy explains that Funded Status equals Fair Value of Plan Assets minus Projected Benefit Obligation, but Entergy does not explain why using Funded Status and Unrecognized Gains/Losses yields the same result as calculating cumulative employer contributions and cumulative pension expense. In some instances, it may be inappropriate to use Funded Status for calculating prepaid pension costs. For example, Entergy’s actuarial disclosure includes a line item for employee contributions for the calculation of Fair Value of Plan Assets, which is a component of Funded Status. However, employee contributions to a pension trust are not shareholder financed funds that the utility has paid out of pocket. Consequently, it would not be just and reasonable for Entergy to include amounts that employees contribute to pension plans in rate base and earn a return on such amounts.
Lastly, FERC found that Entergy’s pension plan funding discretion did not, in and of itself, make Entergy’s proposal unjust and unreasonable. Entergy states that it aims to fully fund its pension plans at the 100 percent level and to not let the funding levels fall below 80 percent. Entergy is not required to provide a policy statement or other documents describing how it exercises its pension funding discretion. As discussed above, while we are rejecting Entergy’s proposal to include a line item for prepaid and accrued pension costs in rate base, we note that, to the extent a utility has a line item for prepaid or accrued pension costs in its transmission formula rate and customers are concerned the utility has funded its pension plans at levels that are not prudent, they may challenge the utility’s pension funding levels when the utility files its annual transmission formula rate updates.
FERC recently issued Opinion 554-A related to the Path (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, LLC) transmission project, which was cancelled by PJM in 2011. The PATH Project was to be a 275-mile 765 kV line from Amos Substation in West Virginia through Virginia to a new Kemptown Substation in Maryland. In Opinion 554, FERC had found that PATH’s base ROE should be reduced from 10.4% to 8.11% to reflect reduced risks (FERC found that, in the abandonment phase of the PATH Project, PATH's risk profile had decreased significantly as compared to the proxy group companies that face ongoing business risks). Additionally, FERC disallowed certain civic, political and related costs from recovery. PATH requested rehearing of Opinion 554. FERC granted rehearing for the following items:
On January 21, 2020, in ER20-857, MISO and the MISO TOs (“MISO”) proposed changes to the cost allocation for Market Efficiency Projects. These changes result from an extensive stakeholder process and are described generally below:
On December 17, 2019, in ER20-617, the NYISO proposed changes to its public policy transmission process to establish provisions for cost containment of transmission projects proposed by developers. As detailed in its filing, the NYISO’s proposed revisions will establish: (A) the cost containment mechanisms that a Developer may voluntarily include as part of a proposed Public Policy Transmission Project in the Public Policy Process; (B) how the NYISO will evaluate in a quantitative and qualitative manner cost containment commitments made by Developers to select the more efficient or cost effective transmission solution to a Public Policy Transmission Need; (C) the manner in which cost containment commitments will be implemented as part of the rate recovery for a selected transmission project; (D) the requirements to include any cost containment commitment in the pro forma Development Agreement that must be entered into between the NYISO and the Developer of the selected project; and (E) additional, related tariff revisions.
Cost Cap – needs to include all capital costs except 1) the cost of system upgrades identified through the interconnection process; 2) cost of financing during construction period; 3) unforeseeable environmental remediation and mitigation costs (Note 1); and 4) real-estate costs for existing rights of way which will not be owned by the developer (can be excluded or included by developers).
Note 1: Costs relating to environmental remediation and environmental mitigation that are not anticipated by the Developer or are otherwise indeterminable based upon information reasonably available to the Developer at the time of submission, including any environmental remediation or mitigation costs that cannot be estimated by the Developer without performing an environmental site assessment or investigation . . . . Costs attributable to environmental investigation, remediation, and mitigation that exceed the amount estimated in the Developer’s bid based on, among other things, changes in the extent of known contamination will be considered “unforeseeable environmental remediation and environmental mitigation costs.”
Developers can propose hard cost caps or soft cost caps. Hard cost caps contain an amount over which the developer cannot recover costs from customers. Soft cost caps contain an amount over which the developer will recover less than or equal to 80% of the costs from customers.
NYISO will evaluate developers capital cost containment commitments qualitatively and quantitatively, as with other evaluation metrics.
NYISO proposes to require the Developer of a selected transmission project to file with FERC any Cost Cap that it proposed as part of the rate for its project. It will amend the pro forma Development Agreement between the NYISO and Developer to include the Cost Cap proposed by the Developer of a selected project.
NYISO proposes limited, specified excusing conditions from the Cost Cap. Those conditions are: (i) Transmission Project changes, delays, or additional costs that are due to the actions or omissions of the ISO, Connecting Transmission Owner(s), Interconnecting Transmission Owner(s), or Affected Transmission Owner(s); (ii) a Force Majeure event as defined in the Development Agreement, (iii) changes in laws or regulations, including but not limited to applicable taxes; (iv) material modifications to scope or routing arising from siting processes under Public Service Law Article VII or applicable local laws as determined by the New York State Public Service Commission or local governments respectively; and (v) actions or inactions of regulatory or governmental entities, and court orders.
On December 31, 2019, in ER20-159, FERC approved, subject to two revisions, Pioneer’s request to recover pre-commercial costs related to a transmission project (Pioneer had previously received the pre-commercial cost incentive from FERC). Pioneer is a joint venture formed by AEP and Duke. Pioneer requested that it be allowed to recover approximately $10.0 M of pre-commercial costs incurred for the March 2009 through December 31, 2019 period, including carrying charges, for development of the Greentown-to-Reynolds segment, which Pioneer has deferred as a regulatory asset. Pioneer asserted that the identified pre-commercial operation costs were prudently incurred and properly recorded and categorized as: (1) business services; (2) legal services; (3) FERC regulatory services; (4) Indiana regulatory services; (5) tax services; and (6) carrying costs. Pioneer stated that these prudently incurred costs would have otherwise been chargeable to expense in the period incurred, but Pioneer’s formula rate was not then in effect. Pioneer also asserted that such costs associated with owning and operating facilities that are used to provide utility service are recoverable in rates.
Pioneer proposed to recover approximately $4.4 M in carrying charges for the period March 2009 through December 31, 2019. Pioneer stated that it calculated the carrying charges without the 150 basis point ROE adder (it had previously been granted an ROR Adder for a larger but related project) in accordance with the July 2019 Order. Pioneer stated that the cost of capital used in the determination of the carrying charges is generally based on a hypothetical capital structure reflecting 50 percent equity and 50 percent debt. Pioneer explains that for the period March 2009 through November 11, 2013, the cost of capital reflects an 11.04% ROE (10.54% base ROE approved in Pioneer I plus 50 basis points for RTO participation), and for the period November 12, 2013, through December 31, 2019, it reflects a 10.82% ROE (10.32% base ROE approved for MISO transmission owners in Docket No. EL14-12 plus 50 basis points for RTO participation). Pioneer requested to amortize the pre-commercial operation costs deferred as a regulatory asset over a five-year period beginning on the effective date to be granted by the Commission in the instant filing. Pioneer requests an effective date of January 1, 2020.
In a prior order, FERC authorized Pioneer to utilize a 50 percent debt/50 percent equity hypothetical capital structure until the completion of the project, finding that Pioneer did not provide a sufficient nexus for the use of a hypothetical capital structure beyond the completion of the project. FERC directed Pioneer, upon completion of the project, to adopt a capital structure based upon its actual financing presented in its Form No. 1. In the instant filing, Pioneer proposes to utilize the 50 percent debt/50 percent equity hypothetical structure beyond the completion date of the project, June 24, 2018. However, Pioneer’s Form No. 1 annual update, filed April 15, 2019, shows that Pioneer’s actual capital structure for the year ending 2018 was approximately 51.1 percent debt and 48.9 percent equity. Accordingly, FERC directed Pioneer to submit a compliance filing utilizing Pioneer’s actual capital structure as presented in its Form No. 1 in calculating its carrying charges beginning June 25, 2018. And consistent with the August 2018 order, FERC’s acceptance of Pioneer’s request to use the MISO regional base ROE for the period November 12, 2013 – February 11, 2015 and prospectively from September 28, 2016, is subject to the outcome of the complaint proceedings in Docket Nos. EL14-12 and EL15-45.
On March 13, 2019, in AC19-75, Duke Energy Corporation, on behalf of its six utility operating companies1 (collectively, Duke), filed an accounting request for approval to treat its Cybersecurity Informational Technology-Operational Technology Program (Cybersecurity Program) as a single project for purposes of calculating Allowance for Funds Used During Construction (AFUDC). FERC approved Duke’s request.
Duke requested approval to treat its Cybersecurity Program as a single project for purposes of determining the accrual period for AFUDC and the in-service date for those assets constructed as part of the Cybersecurity Program. Duke seeks confirmation that it may continue to accrue AFUDC on all of the Cybersecurity Program’s costs until all of the deliverables have been tested, found to be used and useful by Duke’s Operations Council, and placed in service after the completion of the entire Cybersecurity Program. Duke states that it will make over $137 million in capital investments as part of its Cybersecurity Program over the next 36 to 42 months across its generation, transmission, and distribution assets to address the increasing threat of cyberattacks. Duke explains that the Cybersecurity Program is designed based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, which consists of five core functions—identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. According to Duke, it will make capital investments and deploy hardware and software to address each of these core functions on an enterprise-wide basis. Duke states that the focus areas of the Cybersecurity Program include safety systems critical to protect customer’s and employee’s safety, reliability systems critical to reliably operate the platforms, and security systems critical to protecting assets and operations as well as to detecting security anomalies across the platforms. Consistent with the Commission’s AFUDC policy, Duke explains that it has assessed whether capital expenditures for the Cybersecurity Program continue to be incurred and activities that are necessary to get the construction project ready for its intended use are in progress for the duration of construction of all of the Cybersecurity Program’s assets. Duke states that, under its Cybersecurity Program, it “will incur a continuous and steady stream of construction activity expenses” through early 2022. According to Duke, the deliverables for each of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework’s five core functions—identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover—involve complementary, interrelated and interdependent technologies and, “[t]o be effective, all the interdependent hardware and software must be implemented across the entire enterprise, which will take the duration of the Program.” Duke asserts that, although the constituent parts of the Cybersecurity Program will be deployed over shorter timeframes, the Cybersecurity Program’s intended use and benefits—to optimize cybersecurity protection across all lines of business—cannot be achieved until the entire Cybersecurity Program is complete. Duke further declares that “no singular Program asset or deliverable will be ready for service or provide protection value until the completion of the entire Program.”
Under the Commission’s existing AFUDC policy in Accounting Release No. 5, AFUDC may continue to accrue on a project as long as two conditions are present: “(1) capital expenditures for the project [continue to be] incurred; and (2) activities that are necessary to get the construction project ready for its intended use are in progress.” Accounting Release No. 5 states that “[c]apitalization of AFUDC stops when the facilities have been tested and are placed in, or ready for, service,” which includes “those portions of construction projects completed and put into service although the project is not fully completed.” The instructions for AFUDC in the Commission’s Uniform System of Accounts also state that: When a part only of a plant or project is placed in operation or is completed and ready for service but the construction work as a whole is incomplete, that part of the cost of the property placed in operation or ready for service, shall be treated as Electric Plant in Service and [AFUDC] thereon as a charge to construction shall cease. [AFUDC] on that part of the cost of the plant which is incomplete may be continued as a charge to construction until such time as it is placed in operation or is ready for service . . . . Duke’s request was to seek clarification that it could treat the Cybersecurity Program as one project.
On December 12, 2019, in ER20-588, MISO proposed a fundamental first step forward for the use of storage resources to maximize the reliability and efficiency of the electric system. The proposed changes to the tariff will allow a storage facility to be selected as a preferred solution to a Transmission Issue in the MTEP process like traditional transmission solutions, such as wires. The use of energy storage to serve multiple functions is of great interest to MISO and its stakeholders, responds to the expressed policy interests of the Commission, and will support the efficiency and reliability of the electric transmission system.
Since March of 2018, MISO has been working with stakeholders to develop Tariff provisions that
address enabling, evaluating, and selecting a storage facility as a transmission asset when, due to
its unique characteristics, the storage as a transmission asset (SATOA) is shown to be the preferred solution to Transmission Issues identified in the planning processes. The proposed protocol outlines the considerations required to compare the SATOA to more traditional transmission assets, including aspects unique to the storage device. Those unique features include degradation of capacity over time,
inverter-based impacts on reliability, and impacts on operating and interconnecting market
resources. This proposal to utilize energy storage as transmission-only assets reflects a fundamental
shift in how these resources are typically added to the system. This foundational first step forward reflected in the filing will not only enable the utilization of more energy storage resources, but the utilization of more energy storage functions to further enhance the robustness of the system.
MISO’s proposal includes:
• A comprehensive Tariff framework for considering SATOA as transmission
• The opportunity for SATOAs to be evaluated in MTEP and be valued like a
• Specific criteria for the evaluation of a SATOA; and
• Provisions that clarify SATOAs are not subject to the Generation Interconnection
Procedures (“GIP”) in MISO Tariff Attachment X.
On August 9, 2019, in Docket No. ER19-2568, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) filed a request to recover, through its formula rate, 50 percent of the prudently-incurred costs that it incurred associated with the development of its Diablo Canyon Voltage Support Project (DCVS Project) and its Atlantic – Placer 115kV Transmission Line Project (Placer Project), which were ultimately abandoned. On October 10, 2019, FERC found that PG&E has demonstrated that it qualifies to recover 50 percent of the prudently-incurred project costs for the DCVS Project ($1.1 M) and the Placer Project ($0.3 M) based on the facts and circumstances presented in this proceeding, consistent with Opinion No. 295. Specifically, FERC found that the transmission projects for which PG&E seeks abandonment cost recovery were cancelled based upon CAISO’s determination that the projects were no longer necessary. Thus, we conclude that the abandonment of the two projects was beyond PG&E’s control and that the costs incurred appear to be prudent and have not been shown to be unjust and unreasonable. Protesters objected to PG&E’s proposed 40-year amortization period. In its reply comments, PG&E agreed to change the amortization period to one year. FERC authorized a one-year amortization period, which will reduce potential overall costs by avoiding years of carrying costs and, accordingly, will reduce the impact on PG&E’s overall revenue requirement. FERC explained that the RTO/ISO participation adder does not apply to abandoned transmission projects, which are not turned over to the operational control of an RTO/ISO.
Dr. Paul Dumais
CEO of Dumais Consulting with expertise in FERC regulatory matters, including transmission formula rates.