Glick weighs in on potential chairmanship, Chatterjee ouster

Source: By Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Should President-elect Joe Biden appoint Richard Glick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Democratic commissioner said he would push to adjust electricity market rules to accommodate renewable energy, give more deference to state policies and work to remove barriers to high-voltage transmission development.

“We need to continue to explore whether there are market rules that need to be reformed or updated in order to reflect the fact things are changing,” Glick said yesterday during a virtual conference hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). “If nothing else, FERC’s responsibility is to ensure its rules are not unduly discriminatory.”

Glick is the front-runner for FERC chairman under the Biden administration, as he is the only sitting Democrat on the five-member panel. Two nominees — Democrat Allison Clements and Republican Mark Christie — are awaiting Senate confirmation, which is scheduled for next month but could be delayed.

In a brief interview with ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone, Glick commented on the impact of former Republican Chairman Neil Chatterjee’s recent demotion and newly appointed Republican Chairman James Danly’s regulatory style, including Danly’s decision to cancel press briefings (Energywire, Nov. 17).

President Trump unexpectedly demoted Chatterjee earlier this month to commissioner, promoting Danly to lead the independent agency.

Glick said that although he thinks it’s “positive” to communicate federal decisions to the press, it’s not legally required, and he dismissed critics who say the lack of transparency is a problem.

“I think that’s perfectly fine; that’s [Danly’s] decision,” Glick said.

Glick, who was appointed to the commission in 2017, said Chatterjee’s demotion will have “limited impact,” as Danly will have little time to pursue an agenda before Biden’s inauguration.

“Each chairman gets to mold the agenda for the commission,” he said. “But that usually takes a good amount of time; you can’t just do things overnight.”

Glick also said he feels he can work with Danly to meet common goals.

“We certainly have different views. But since he’s become a commissioner, I got to know him better. And I think our relationship is pretty good,” Glick said. “I do look forward to continuing to work with him because I do think there are things we can get done.”

Last month, under Chatterjee’s direction, the commission issued a draft policy statement saying that regional grid operators that propose adding a price on carbon would not be dismissed out of hand. Observers have in part attributed Trump’s decision to demote Chatterjee to that move on carbon pricing, as well as Chatterjee’s refusal to comply with a White House push to curb diversity training sessions.

Glick said he does not know why Chatterjee was demoted but described the carbon pricing proposal as “relatively benign.”

“If the White House had really paid attention [to the contents of the proposal],” he said, “they might have made a different decision.”

Policy priorities

Glick said a priority for the next administration is boosting renewable penetration, which will likely call for transmission system upgrades to carry wind and solar from the rural West to population centers in the East, for example.

“I do think we need to build out the grid more significantly,” he said.

The commission will need to revisit two major policies to achieve that goal, he said. The first is Order 1000, FERC’s 2011 landmark transmission policy, and the second is financial incentives.

While Order 1000 is credited with improving regional grid planning and cost allocation, analysts say the rule failed to remove hurdles to building new high-voltage transmission lines.

“Order 1000 created a perverse incentive for transmission owners to build smaller projects,” Glick said. “They can avoid competition that way.”

The commission currently does not provide financial incentives for transmission projects that satisfy public policy priorities, Glick said.

“We need to figure out if we need to incentivize those projects,” he said.

When it comes to market rules that states see as infringing on their rights to determine their resource mix — such as FERC’s controversial minimum offer price rule, or MOPR — Glick said there is ongoing litigation and that courts might remand those rules to FERC, at which point the panel could amend them in states’ favor.

“I think the commission has well exceeded its legal authority,” Glick said. “I don’t think it’s sustainable. We’re already seeing states threatening to pull utilities out of [regional transmission organizations].”

He added, “From my perspective, we need to reassess and develop a whole new paradigm.”

Proponents of MOPR, including Chatterjee, say the rule is not discriminatory but rather keeps power markets fuel neutral by preventing state-subsidized resources from gaining an edge.

Glick said flexibility is most important for the grid of the future, as more intermittent generation like wind and solar comes online. He said that although natural gas generation provides that flexibility, energy storage can do so even more.

“Storage is going to play a big role in that and should be compensated for the value” it provides to the grid, he said.