McNamee to renewable industry: ‘I don’t have an agenda’

Source: Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, March 22, 2019

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s newest commissioner tried yesterday to address the renewable energy industry’s concerns about his previous work promoting fossil fuels.

Commissioner Bernard McNamee told the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) he would work and make decisions as an independent arbiter.

“There’s a difference from going out there and saying, ‘This is what we need to get done,’ and a difference between what I see as being an independent arbiter,” McNamee told the business group at its annual meeting in Washington.

“I see myself more as a judge, an independent arbiter. I don’t have an agenda.”

McNamee’s comments last year questioning renewable energy technologies and expressing doubts about the science on human-driven climate change led to a heated confirmation battle. The Senate confirmed him Dec. 6 on a 50-49 party-line vote (Energywire, Dec. 7, 2018).

His confirmation was also complicated when Democrats took issue with his work at the Department of Energy, where he helped write the coal and nuclear bailout plan to reward those technologies’ on-site fuel supply attributes. That policy flopped before FERC early last year.

When pressed yesterday by ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone about how he would approach changes in the market to reward a technology’s grid resilience, McNamee declined to offer specifics on upcoming commission votes.

“I’m not going to comment on resilience per se, but I do believe that as a general proposition that markets are the best way to allocate resources and set prices,” McNamee said. “I think there has been great successes of that on many fronts.”

McNamee also noted the commission’s work on transmission and battery storage — two areas, he said, that would help further unleash renewable power sources in the marketplace. He said FERC was looking at distributed energy regulations but offered no specifics.

Since joining the commission in December, McNamee earned bipartisan praise from fellow commissioners for helping to fashion a compromise on liquefied natural gas export terminals’ greenhouse gas analysis, allowing Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass export terminal to proceed despite FERC’s 2-2 split.

McNamee told reporters after his ACORE speech yesterday he was happy to have the opportunity to offer his views on renewable energy.

“The important thing is that FERC needs to regulate all resources,” McNamee said. “I gained approval of three solar facilities. I’ve worked on closing coal facilities and turning them into biomass. I’ve done a variety of things, so I’m happy to be here because they are an important part of the industry.”