Alphabet Soup: A NERC Acronym Guide for Beginners

by Beth Davis, NERC Reliability Specialist

NERC provides an extensive Glossary of Terms on its website to us help understand and effectively implement the mandatory Reliability Standards. However, the Glossary does not always address oft-used acronyms encountered across NERC’s various compliance monitoring reports and other publications. For example, the preamble to its 2016 ERO Enterprise Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program Annual Report referenced no less than 12 acronyms.

Without a helpful guide, a NERC novice must wade through a veritable alphabet soup. Here is a glossary of the acronyms you’re most likely to encounter as you support your organization’s reliability compliance.

BPSThe Bulk Power System (BPS) is a statutory term that includes facilities and control systems necessary for operating an interconnected electric energy transmission network (or any portion thereof); and electric energy from generation facilities needed to maintain transmission system reliability.
BESThe Bulk Electric System (BES) is a NERC definition applicable to plants with a nameplate rating greater than 75 MVA or operating at 100 kV or higher. It includes all Elements and Facilities necessary for the reliable operation and planning of the interconnected Bulk Power System. Additional clarifying inclusions and exclusions for this definition are not recited here. This definition is very similar to but not the same as the Bulk Power System (BPS).
FERCThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the United States federal agency that oversees our interstate transmission and pricing of a variety of energy resources including electricity, natural gas and oil. FERC has authority to oversee the reliability of the BPS. As an oversight commission, FERC relies upon the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) to coordinate enforcement of the mandatory reliability standards. FERC approves all proposed Reliability Standards before they become applicable to electric entities in the United States.
EROThe Electric Reliability Organization (ERO), NERC, and the eight Regional Entities constitute the “ERO Enterprise,” which collectively brings together their leadership, experience, judgment, skills and supporting resources to fulfill the ERO’s statutory obligations to assure the reliability of the North American BPS. The ERO’s key programs impact more than 1,900 BPS owners and operators.
NERCThe North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not-for-profit regulatory authority subject to FERC oversight and charged with assuring the reliability and security of the BPS in North America. NERC develops and administers all effective mandatory Reliability Standards. In executing its responsibilities, NERC delegates certain authorities to eight Regional Entities.
RE The Regional Entities (RE) are delegated the responsibility of developing regional Reliability Standards and monitoring compliance with mandatory Reliability Standards, certification of registered entities, and registration of owners, operators and users of the BPS, among other roles. The Regional Entities include the following:•  Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC)•  Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO)•  Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC)•  ReliabilityFirst (RF)•  SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC)•  Southwest Power Pool, RE (SPP RE)• Texas Reliability Entity (Texas RE)• Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) 
CEAThe Compliance Enforcement Authority (CEA) refers to either NERC or the Regional Entity acting in their respective role and capacity of monitoring and enforcing compliance with NERC Reliability Standards.

To summarize the preceding: The reliability and stability of the BES are under FERC’s jurisdiction and oversight. NERC (as the ERO) together with the Regional Entities function as the CEA to monitor and enforce mandatory Reliability Standards.

To introduce the following: There are several process tools used to monitor and enforce compliance with the Standards, all of which are typically referred to by their acronyms. The following appear most frequently.

CMEPNERC’s Enterprise Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program (CMEP) is the program used by NERC and the Regional Entities to monitor, assess and enforce compliance with Reliability Standards within the United States. Each year, NERC issues its CMEP Implementation Plan, which is the annual operating plan used by CEAs to perform their responsibilities and duties. NERC is responsible for collecting and reviewing the Regional Entity (RE) Implementation Plans to help ensure REs provide appropriate and consistent information regarding how they conduct CMEP activities.
IRAThe Inherent Risk Assessment (IRA) is a key component of NERC’s Risk-Based Compliance Oversight Framework. The IRA involves a review of the potential risks posed by an individual registered entity to the reliability of the BPS. An IRA considers risk factors such as assets, systems, geography, interconnectivity, prior compliance history and overall unique entity composition when determining the compliance oversight plan for a registered entity. An ERO Enterprise Inherent Risk Assessment Guide is available on the NERC website.
ICEThe primary objective of the Internal Control Evaluation (ICE) is to focus the compliance oversight efforts of the CEA by recognizing the internal controls a registered entity employs to manage reliability risks. Internal control activities may be preventive, detective, and/or corrective. An ERO Enterprise Internal Control Evaluation Guide is available on the NERC website.
FFT / CENERC’s Find, Fix, Track and Report (FFT) program and Compliance Exceptions (CE) are two risk-based approaches for CEAs to use in resolving instances of non-compliance. The ERO Enterprise may identify CEs for minimal-risk non-compliance that does not warrant a penalty and is recorded and mitigated without triggering an enforcement action. CEs build on the success of NERC’s FFT program, which was the first step in implementing a risk-based strategy that recognizes that not all instances of non-compliance require the same type of enforcement process.

While this list does not contain all of the NERC and reliability acronyms you may encounter, it should cover enough of them to help you effectively navigate the resources available on the NERC website.