A conversation with Allison Clements

Source: BY KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2021

In a conversation with Pro’s Eric Wolff, FERC Commissioner Allison Clements explained when the power regulator should get out of the way of state policy, when it should jump in, and why it needs to get buy-in from states to allow more transmission.

Clements said she did not think FERC gets to “pick and choose” which state policies it respects. “I think I’m pretty legally consistent there,” she told Eric. “There are opportunities to improve markets design to both come into congruence with state policies and to ensure that customers don’t get left holding the bag, or get exposed to the type of emergency events that were taking place this week [in Texas].”

But there’s a caveat. “FERC has reliability authority to work with NERC and to direct standards be developed. So, in that sense, I will push the commission to act, to protect customers via reliability standards,” she said. “And so that certainly interacts with state functions, but it’s a clearly defined federal authority in terms of what do we do about all this.”

On the subject of opening up transmission, Clements pointed to a the need to break through the “to-date intractable problems of cost allocation,” where she said there is a lot FERC can do. “And there’s some things the commission can’t do on that front and so inter-regional transmission development that is required to move the 750 gigawatts of wind, solar, and battery storage that are in that interconnection queues, in regions across the country, that’s going to require the buy-in of states, and the buy-in of customers,” she said. “And I think we’re just at the beginning of that process.”

About that buy-in: “The reality is we’re going to spend money. The grid is old. It needs to be improved, and the time for the next build out is here,” she said. “So in my mind as a FERC commissioner, my job is to ensure that we spend that money well so that customers get benefits commensurate to what they’re going to pay on their bills for the development of that transmission and doing that requires planning for public policies.”