The Commission’s enforcement program has a significant role in maintaining and enhancing the reliability of the bulk power system. Enforcement staff works closely with other Commission offices, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the Commission certified Electric Reliability Organization, and the eight Regional Entities charged with day-to-day reliability responsibilities. The enforcement program does this primarily in two ways:
- Conducting audits and investigation relating to reliability programs and serious potential violations; and
- Processing Notices of Penalty assessed by NERC or the Regional Entities for violations of electric reliability standards.
The Commission can investigate alleged violations of reliability standards independently or in coordination with NERC, or review conduct that is the subject of a Notice of Penalty filed with the Commission. Investigations involving Enforcement staff will primarily focus on violation resulting in actual harm, either through the loss of load or through some other means, as well as cases involving repeat violations of the reliability standards or a violation of a standard that carries a substantial actual risk to the system. Reliability investigations are conducted under 18 C.F.R. §1b and may result in detailed compliance plans, reliability enhancements, and significant civil penalties.
The Commission conducts reliability observation, independence, and standards audits on a proactive basis to ensure: (1) regional entities are conducting their own robust audits; (2) regional entities are properly carrying out their responsibilities in an independent manner, and (3) responsible entities comply with the Reliability Standards. Typically, the Commission performs these audits in conjunction with the Office of Electric Reliability and in some cases NERC.
Under Commission approved procedures, NERC files Notices of Penalty, which detail findings and resolution of violations or alleged violations by NERC or the Regional Entities. A Notice of Penalty may include a settlement agreement and also describes mitigation efforts and factors considered by NERC or the Regional Entity in determining the appropriate remedy. Enforcement staff works with staff from other Commission Offices to determine whether to recommend that the Commission take action or decline further review of the Notices of Penalty.
The Commission’s enforcement program works in tandem with other Commission efforts on reliability, such as the review and approval of new Reliability Standards, education of the regulated community on the Commission’s reliability efforts, and promoting excellence in electric utility operational practices designed to enhance reliability.