Over the course of the Trump administration, the nonpartisan nature of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been called into question by clean energy advocates and states with carbon reduction mandates. Now, with the Biden administration set to take the reins, those critics are asking what FERC can do to further their goals.
To be clear, FERC’s authority over interstate energy policy remains rooted in the Federal Power Act, which delineates its authority and makes clear that all proposed regulatory changes must result in “just and reasonable” rates and tariffs, and must avoid being “unduly discriminatory” in their effects on different technologies or classes of market participants.
But several major decisions approved by FERC’s Republican majority over objections of its Democratic minority have led to accusations of political bias. Most notably, FERC’s orders regarding Eastern U.S. capacity markets have been decried by clean energy groups as undermining state clean energy policies and propping up fossil fuel generators.
FERC has other key decisions that will play a role in the Biden administration’s clean-energy ambitions, from policies to encourage transmission grid build-out to connect growing utility-scale renewables across the country and off its coasts, to market structures to integrate aggregated distributed energy resources such as batteries, electric vehicles and flexible demand-side resources.
But it’s likely that the most contentious issue facing FERC will involve finding a resolution to the capacity market rules imposed by its Republican majority over the past two years.