Southwest Power Pool Again Proposes Discriminatory Renewable Energy Accreditation

SPP’s proposal fails to assess the vulnerabilities of aging coal and gas plants and continues to discriminate against cleaner resources


Kathryn McGrath, Earthjustice,

Lee Ziesche, Sierra Club,

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), once again, submitted a discriminatory accreditation plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). SPP was required to go back to the drawing board following a challenge by environmental advocates last year who challenged the unfair treatment of renewable energy.

SPP now comes back with two parallel accreditation proposals, one for thermal units like coal, gas, and nuclear, and another for renewable wind and solar units. The plans differ in that SPP holds renewable generation — and not thermal generation — responsible for its performance during the grid operator’s highest risk hours, even though there’s a welldocumented record of coal and gas generation failing during recent extreme cold weather events such as Winter Storms Uri, Elliott, and Gerri/Heather.

SPP’s proposals do not resolve any of the underlying discriminatory failures identified in the last round; instead, it perpetuates them, continuing to ignore the risks of the grid operator’s large fleet of coal and gas plants going offline when they are most needed. Clean energy advocates spent much of the last year urging SPP to overhaul its approach to ensure that it applies fair accreditation rules to all resource types. However, even as the grid operator updated its thermal accreditation to account for performance issues over the course of the year, it has chosen to continue pretending that coal and gas plants never shut down en masse during the system’s most challenging hours. This is not remotely true, as SPP’s own assessment of the three most recent winter storms can attest. And it stands in stark contrast to SPP’s updated accreditation for wind and solar resources, which will be based entirely on their collective ability to perform during the highest-risk hours.

The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sustainable FERC Project, the American Clean Power Association, and the Solar Energy Industry Association, with legal support from Earthjustice, were involved in the previous FERC ruling that reversed its approval of SPP’s discriminatory proposal. Read SPP’s filing.

Statement from Greg Wanier, Senior Attorney with Sierra Club: 

“It’s surprising that any regional grid operator — much less one with SPP’s years of experience with widespread gas and coal failures during recent winter storms — would move forward with such an unrealistic accreditation plan for fossil fuel generation. If FERC approves this plan, ratepayers will be the main victims: they will be forced to pay for a massive and unnecessary gas overbuild, while facing additional risk of blackouts during extreme weather events. These outcomes will be all the more unfortunate because they are so avoidable.”

Statement from Aaron Stemplewicz, Attorney with Earthjustice: 

“SPP and grid operators across the country must thoughtfully modernize outdated resource adequacy methodologies to respond to our inevitable transition to a cleaner energy mix. Unfortunately, SPP has wasted another chance to do so. SPP’s proposal fails to accurately assess the vulnerabilities of aging coal and gas plants — which have failed again and again during recent extreme weather events — and continues to discriminate against cleaner wind and solar resources. If approved, SPP’s proposal threatens to leave customers in the dark and saddle them with higher bills, while also slowing development of cleaner forms of energy.”

Statement from Natalie McIntire, Senior Advocate for the Sustainable FERC Project at NRDC:

“We’ve seen repeatedly over the last few years that fossil fuels fail when electricity is most needed. SPP has been given another bite at the apple to take this into account and evaluate all resources in a considered and fair manner. Fossil fuels are not infallible, and customers will lose out on reliability and affordability so long as grid operators continue to over-reward underperformance.”

Statement from Emily Piontek, Managing Director and Policy Coordinator at Renew Missouri:

Time and again, renewables have performed capably, reliably, and cost-effectively during extreme weather events. Their capacity to do so was recently demonstrated during Winter Storm Gerri/Heather, when wind power performed above expectations across the SPP region. Meanwhile, fossil generators — which are given an unfair advantage by SPP’s proposed approach to resource accreditation — did not. It’s time for SPP to value resources without bias, and to recognize that as technology advances and the power system modernizes, accreditation standards must evolve accordingly.

People wait in a long line to enter a grocery store in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021, to stock up on supplies ahead of another expected storm.
People wait in a long line to enter a grocery store in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021, to stock up on supplies after Winter Storm Uri and ahead of another expected storm. Huge winter storms crippled electric grids and left millions of Americans without power amid dangerously cold temperatures. (Tamir Kalifa / The New York Times)

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.