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In a joint statement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced steps they are taking to prioritize the health and safety of the bulk electric system workforce while making every effort to keep the lights on during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In doing so, these regulators—that are responsible for developing and ensuring compliance with mandatory Reliability Standards for the bulk electric system—recognize that exceptions to compliance with the Reliability Standards may be necessary during this unprecedented public health emergency.

Accordingly, FERC and NERC have outlined new compliance guidance for all entities listed on the NERC Compliance Registry. Significantly, FERC and NERC will use “regulatory discretion” to “consider the impact of the virus outbreak in complying with Reliability Standards.” Their guidance identifies potential scenarios where compliance may be an issue during the COVID-19 global pandemic and requests proactive communication by the registered entities with their respective Regional Entities and Reliability Coordinators in such circumstances.

First, FERC and NERC request that registered entities notify their respective Regional Entities and Reliability Coordinators when using system operator personnel who have not obtained and maintained the personnel certification requirements of Reliability Standard PER-003-2, for the period of March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Second, the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak will be considered, on a case-by-case basis, an acceptable reason for non-compliance with Reliability Standard requirements, including those involving periodic actions that would have been taken between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020. Registered entities should notify their respective Regional Entities of any actions that will be missed during this period.

Third, Regional Entities will postpone on-site activities, such as on-site audits and certifications, at least until July 31, 2020.

Fourth, registered entities are encouraged to contact their respective Regional Entities regarding any resource impacts associated with remote activities that they have identified as new practices evolve.

Finally, FERC and NERC recognize that its new compliance guidance may be modified with extended dates as they continue to evaluate the situation.

FERC and NERC’s full announcement is available here.

For more information, please contact Kristen Connolly McCullough, Lisa Gast, or Sean Neal.