Discussions with Joe Weiss and reading his recent blog entry have me thinking. While I don’t agree with his assessment of the value of the current CIP standards as written, he might be on to something with potential disharmony between FERC’s expectations and NERC’s response as the ERO.

Prior to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, NERC was by necessity a consensus organization driven by its members who comprised the bulk electric system. This was the case for decades.

A telling and relevant example are CIP-002 to CIP-009 standards. The level of rigor was essentially set to the maximum level that could pass the NERC vote, which is 2/3 of voting members. There were many smart, active people in the CIP process who wanted to require more, but they knew this would cause the standards to fail in a vote.

Who was the boss of NERC? The NERC members who represented the electric generation and transmission organizations in North America.

Now jump forward to present day where NERC has been named the electric reliability organization (ERO). Who is the ERO’s boss? Clearly the answer is FERC.

So in December ’06 the FERC staff issues their review of the NERC CIP standards with numerous suggested modifications. Now if you hand in a report and your boss suggests many changes, you are expected to make the changes. Maybe you convince your boss that some of the changes would be a mistake, but certainly you respond and deliver the next revision of the report to address your boss’s concerns.

But NERC did not do this. Instead they discussed all the reasons that led to the industry consensus on the CIP standards, and how suggestions can be best worked into the current consensus standards development process.

Your boss may be right. Your boss may be wrong. But you had better put the priority on making your boss happy and responding to his or her clear and direct assignments. Next, FERC issues almost the same suggestions in the staff assessment as a NOPR with 59 of the suggestions now listed as directed modifications to the standards.

My Conclusion

The interests of NERC as it has existed for decades are going to conflict with the interest of the ERO. If the NERC organization is going to be effective as the ERO they are going to need to have a Chinese Wall between the ERO activities and all past activities. And the ERO is going to make many NERC members angry over time.