In 2008, the Form EIA-411 became a mandatory collection for all schedules except No. 7 (Transmission Outages) which will continue to be a voluntary filing. The Form EIA-411 collects information about regional electricity supply and demand projections for a five-year advance period and information on the transmission system and supporting facilities. Editing of the data is done by each of the various reliability regions.
The data collected on this form are used by the U.S. Department of Energy to monitor the current status and trends of the electric power industry and to evaluate the future reliability of the industry. Each of the reliability regions of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is asked to submit Form EIA-411 after compiling data furnished by utilities and other electricity suppliers within their regions to NERC. NERC then compiles and coordinates these reports and provides the data to the Energy Information Administration.
The regional entities boundaries (for the United States) cover the contiguous 48-States and the District of Columbia. Three NERC regions extend into Canada (and one into Mexico) but data reported on the EIA-411 cover only the United States. Electric utilities and/or energy concerns in the States of Alaska, Hawaii, the Dominion of Puerto Rico, and the Territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands are not under reliability oversight by NERC.
Coverage does not extend to all electric utilities. Exclusions include information coming from small electric utilities where internal customer load and generating sources are located “behind the metering” points on the bulk power (high voltage) electrical systems. For reliability accountability purposes, those supply sources and associated power flow data (used to interpret demand) either are measured by the electrical system's monitoring as a net total of electricity flowing back and forth across the metering point or are excluded as self-served supply and demand. In the long-term reliability planning data supplied on the Form EIA-411, this does represent a narrow area of undercoverage. However, the prior voluntary and new mandatory standards for reliability overseen by the various regional entities and NERC have not established a clear boundary between distribution electrical systems and their reliability oversight of bulk power systems.
The voluntary organization (North American Electric Reliability Council) focused only on what some call the ultra-high voltages (200 kV - 765 kV and above for Alternating and 200 kV - 800 kV and above for Direct Current). That organization did not directly address the high voltages (100 kV - to about 200 kV) transmission system or the voltages at 69 kV to about 100 kV that is sometimes called the sub-transmission voltages. (Voltages below 69 kV are normally considered distribution level.) On the other hand, the newly established North American Electric Reliability Corporation is still focusing on developing and getting approval of the mandatory standards that they (and the reviewing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) consider as core oversight areas.
It also does not help that the electrical boundary for distribution systems and the varying voltage levels within the Nation's transmission systems is not based upon consistent usage of one voltage, but on the primary assignment for support of direct load or energy transfer and reliability support. Many of the intermediate size and small electric utilities only have a mix of these lower voltages while other small, intermediate size and large electric utilities have a mix ranging from sub-transmission to the ultra-high voltages. Distribution reliability and related issues are not the responsibility of the new NERC. However, NERC is responsible for everything above those distribution systems plus it has to consider the consequences of the electrical loss of major load centers.
Also, generating capacity that has been assigned market-based rates, but that has not been given the obligation to meet or be available to supply energy at times of electrical system peak, is often referred to as 'uncommitted capacity' for reliability estimates. Such uncommitted capacities were generally not reported on the EIA-411 nor formally tracked under the old North American Electric Reliability Council reliability methodology. This concern has been addressed starting with the coverage of data describing calendar year 2006.
Data users should be aware that there are a variety of approaches and definitions used to provide reliability data among the operators of the different power grids (oversight is by various regional councils). Consistent terms and methods are now being developed by NERC and EIA is working with industry to keep this consistency. There is more that still needs to done. Examples of these regional differences include how various capacity derates are applied to classes of power plants; tracking of forced outages and scheduled maintenance of individual power plants and generating units; data aggregations based upon uniform definitions of metering point; and tracking of firm capacity transfers that impact reliability planning.