Regional Conferences on Gas-Electric Coordination

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has now set the schedule for four regional technical conferences to explore coordination between the natural gas and electric industries. These conferences will each include a staff presentation on infrastructure in that region and an opportunity for a staff and industry discussion of national and regional issues such as better communications and information sharing, electric reliability, and market structures and rules.

They will be held at the following locations and on the following dates:

Central August 6, 2012 St. Louis, MO
Northeast August 20, 2012 Boston, MA
Southeast August 23, 2012 Washington, DC
West August 28, 2012 Portland, OR

As the retirement of more coal-powered generation is anticipated and the reliance on the use of natural gas to generate electricity is expanding because of the boom in natural gas extraction from shale resulting in low prices, and as back-up power for renewables, there are some concerns about how the interlinked gas and power markets will actually work, how new pipelines will be funded and how electricity reliability will be assured. Further, there could be more potential for market manipulation as the harmonization between the two markets becomes more complex. There are also fundamental differences between the pipeline industry and the power sector, with pipelines seeking firm contracts from their customers and electricity generators trading by the minute in response to bids.

The FERC conferences will hopefully flesh out these issues and lead to answers on how to address them.