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Utility Dive: New FERC Chair Danly cancels Chatterjee electric vehicle roundtable, nixes media briefings

Posted by Catherine Morehouse on Nov 18, 2020

Utility Dive reported FERC Chairman Danly is making changes at FERC, with canceled EV roundtable and no media briefings, quoting AEE's Jeff Dennis. Read excerpts below and the full piece here.

Newly-appointed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman James Danly is already making it clear his chairmanship, however short, will be different from that of Neil Chatterjee's.

Last week, Danly, who replaced Chatterjee as chair of FERC earlier this month, cancelled the former chairman's scheduled roundtable discussion on electric vehicles, intended to examine EV charging's impact on transmission and wholesale markets. And on Monday, the chair announced through a FERC spokesperson that he would not be granting any press interviews or hosting any media briefings, a significant departure from previous commission chairs, according to former FERC staff, though some former and current FERC leaders defended Danly's decision.

The chairman will host his first of at least three FERC meetings on Thursday. Though President-elect Joe Biden will likely appoint a different chair to the commission after his expected inauguration on Jan. 20, FERC, under Chatterjee's leadership in October, and approved by all three commissioners, changed the January meeting date to Tuesday, Jan. 19, instead of the usual third Thursday of the month.

Former FERC leadership and staff say media briefings play an essential role in how the public understands and digests long, complicated FERC orders, and the tradition dates back to the 1990s.

"While different Chair's have had different styles of engaging with the press, in my memory no Chairman has ever simply decided to not engage with the press or hold press conferences," Jeff Dennis, who spent over a decade in various roles at FERC and is now managing director and general counsel at Advanced Energy Economy, said in an email. "That is unfortunate, because discussions with the press and press conferences are important opportunities to explain what the Commission is doing, and to provide transparency to the public and regulated industry."

Billions of dollars in investments are regularly impacted by FERC decisions, Dennis added, and reduced transparency could add unnecessary uncertainty to the markets, potentially even stalling investments and any related economic growth...

Chatterjee announced the roundtable Oct. 30, a little over a month after FERC passed Order 2222, intended to remove barriers to distributed energy resources, including EV charging stations, in wholesale markets. Danly dissented on Order 2222...

Dennis said AEE and its members, many of whom are involved heavily in EV development and the supply chain, are "disappointed" the commission will not be examining the issue.

But ultimately, Danly's three months as chair are unlikely to change very much, Glick said on Tuesday. 

"You can't just do things overnight. And in this particular case, because of the election results, it appears that Chairman Danly will probably only be chairman for a couple of months. So I think it's a limited impact," he said.

Dennis agreed Danly was unlikely "to initiate or push forward major proactive policy initiatives."

Read the full Utility Dive piece here.

Topics: AEE In The News