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Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA)

"List of Covered Electric Utilities” under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA)

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) Subtitle E contains three sections (secs. 1251, 1252, and 1254) that add additional “States-must-consider” standards to the  Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA).

Specifically, EPACT 2005 adds five new Federal standards to PURPA Section 111(d):

  • (11) NET METERING (see EPACT 2005 Sec. 1251 for details)
  • (12) FUEL SOURCES (see EPACT 2005 Sec. 1251 for details)
  • (13) FOSSIL FUEL GENERATION EFFICIENCY (see EPACT 2005 Sec. 1251 for details) 
  • (14) TIME-BASED METERING AND COMMUNICATIONS (see EPACT 2005 Sec. 1252 for details), and
  • (15) INTERCONNECTION (see EPACT 2005 Sec. 1254 for details).

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) contains two sections (secs. 532 and 1307), that also add additional “States-must-consider” standards to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA).

Specifically, EISA 07 adds four new Federal standards to PURPA Section 111(d):

  • (16) INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLANNING (see EISA 2007 Sec. 532(a) for details)
  • (16) (sic) CONSIDERATION OF SMART GRID INVESTMENTS (see EISA 2007 Sec. 1307(a) for details), and, 
  • (17) (sic) SMART GRID INFORMATION (see EISA 2007 Sec. 1307(a) for details

The impact of these EPACT 05 and EISA 07 changes to the 1978 PURPA law is that State electricity regulators (i.e., State public utility commissions) "must consider,” for their regulated electric utilities (usually but not always only investor-owned utilities), whether to adopt verbatim all of these standards as requirements on those electric utilities. 

By “must-consider,” PURPA as amended says that States must start regulatory proceedings by a specified deadline and then make a yes or no decision by another specified date on whether to actually adopt that standard verbatim as a requirement on its State-jurisdictional utilities. 

Note that for non-State jurisdictional utilities, which means publicly- and cooperative-owned electric utilities, PURPA requires the same “must consider” steps on the governing boards (who are either locally elected or appointed) of these utilities.  TVA is deemed to be the State regulatory authority for those electric utilities over which it has ratemaking authority.

As Congress has chosen not to itself regulate these retail-level decisions at the Federal level and thus preserve the legal authority of States (or local governing boards) to make these decisions, how PURPA (as amended) works can be difficult to understand.  The reader may thus wish to consult two non-DOE guides that explain and interpret PURPA as modified respectively by EPACT 05 and EISA 07, and/or seek appropriate legal counsel: 

DOE itself is not involved in the implementation of PURPA — States (or local governing boards) are — and so DOE is not in a position to offer guidance or advice on these new PURPA provisions.

Note that PURPA requires that its “states-must-consider” provisions apply only to electric utilities over a certain minimum size threshold. Further, under PURPA Title I, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is required to publish a list identifying each electric utility that Title I applies to, as stated by PURPA itself:

Subtitle A—General Provisions

SEC. 102(a)
VOLUME OF TOTAL RETAIL SALES — This title applies to each utility in any calendar year, and to each proceeding relating to each electric utility in such a year, if the total sales of electric energy by such utility for purposes other than resale exceeded 500 million kilowatt-hours during any calendar year beginning after December 31, 1975, and before the immediately preceding calendar year.

SEC. 102(b)
EXCLUSION OF WHOLESALE SALES —The requirements of this title do not apply to the operations of an electric utility, or to proceedings respecting such operations, to the extent that such operations or proceedings relate to sales of electric energy for purposes of resale.

SEC. 102(c)
LIST OF COVERED UTILITIES —Before the beginning of calendar year, the Secretary shall publish a list identifying each electric utility to which this title applies during such calendar year. Promptly after publication of such list each State regulatory authority shall notify the Secretary of each electric utility on the list for which State regulatory authority has ratemaking authority.” (Source: 16 U.S.C. 2612)

Thus, DOE has published three lists of PURPA-covered utilities to better serve the various "states must consider..." PURPA provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007: 

DOE does not intend to update these lists unless Congress in the future enacts new “states must consider...” PURPA provisions. However, anyone can determine if an electric utility is subject to PURPA Title I by using PURPA’s definition of a covered utility as one that had more than 500 million kilowatt-hours of retail sales in a year.  Data on an electric utility’s retail sales is collected by the Energy Information Administration through their Form EIA-826 "Monthly Electric Utility Sales and Revenue Report with State Distributions”.  Spreadsheets by utility and year of such data is at available at the EIA website.