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E&E News: Biden's Clean Electricity Plan May Hinge on FERC

Posted by Arianna Skibell on Aug 24, 2020

E&E News connected Presidential nominee Joe Biden's proposed clean energy plan to FERC's role in power markets, quoting AEE's Jeff Dennis. Read excerpts below and the entire E&E News piece here (sub. req.).  

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 could hinge on an independent agency that's not part of the presidential Cabinet: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Biden, speaking to a digital audience last week at the Democratic National Convention, promised to tackle climate change if elected, calling it one of the major crises facing the country. "It's not only a crisis, it's an enormous opportunity," he said. "An opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new good-paying jobs..."

The former vice president has not spelled out fully how he would reach his clean energy goals, but analysts say FERC would play a critical role in a potential Biden administration because of its regulatory authority over the interstate transmission of electricity and ability to approve projects such as gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas export terminals. "[FERC] is very important, if not critical, for an administration that is looking to set us on a pathway to a net-zero emissions electricity sector by 2035," said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel for Advanced Energy Economy...

But concerns over climate change have grown exponentially. And as states increasingly work to achieve ambitious low-carbon energy goals and environmental and climate activists battle natural gas infrastructure, observers say the agency could make or break an efficient and reliable energy transition.

"You need a FERC that recognizes that to get to [Biden's] goal, there are going to be policies put in place by Congress, by EPA and other agencies, as well as by the states, and all these will come together and have an impact on wholesale markets and those markets will have to be adapted accordingly," said Dennis. "You need a commission that understands that and will not view its lane as myopically narrow in that regard..."

While any significant changes may require congressional action, Dennis said presidents can move their agenda by being strategic in choosing commissioners. For example, President George W. Bush, who nominated former Texas utility regulator Patrick Wood III to head the agency, wanted to introduce more competition into wholesale electricity markets.

"They knew that Pat Wood was someone who shared those goals and had achieved many of those goals in Texas," Dennis said. "He was able to lead FERC in a way that would be in service to the administration's competition goals, while not straying from the agency's statutory purposes..."

Read the entire E&E News piece here (sub. req.). 

Topics: United In The News