On June 13, 2023, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security held a hearing on the “Oversight of FERC: Adhering to a Mission of Affordable and Reliable Energy for America.” The hearing focused on reliability and the transition from fossil fuel generation to renewable resources.
The hearing began with Representative Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina) commending the Commission for its progress, but urging it to do more to improve affordability. He criticized certain groups for trying to make FERC an environmental regulator and emphasized that FERC is an economic regulator. Representative Duncan noted that blackouts and energy rationing have become commonplace in the United States, and mentioned Texas, California, and the PJM, Interconnection, L.L.C. region as places with shortfalls. He stated that a recent North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) study indicates that many regions have tight installed reserve margins, and he pins these tight margins on: generator retirements; Environmental Protection Agency regulations; Environmental, Social, and Governance goals; and markets that do not procure firm generation. During Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (R-Washington) opening remarks, she expressed that FERC should be working to ensure that reliable, dispatchable supplies of energy are properly valued in wholesale markets, that FERC should issue timely decisions for interstate natural gas pipelines, and that FERC should create certainty for hydropower and electric transmission developers. She noted that if FERC sticks to these functions, energy failures will decrease, and reliability will improve.
Many Representatives questioned the Commissioners on interregional transmission lines and reliability. Representative Scott Peters (D-California) asked about how these lines could prevent events like the Winter Storm Elliott blackouts. Commissioner Allison Clements explained that interregional transmission lines reduce congestion and transports electricity to people in need. She explained that while there is broad support for interregional transmission, challenges exist to get regions to work together. Representative Doris Matsui (D-California) emphasized that there is a dire need to build more transmission infrastructure, and Representative Paul Tonko (D-New York) encouraged the Commission to move forward with its open transmission proceedings. Chairman Willie Phillips agreed and explained that transmission planning must take on a long-term approach to plan for the changing resource mix. Commissioner James Danly explained that until the resource adequacy problem is dealt with, the marginal benefits gained by transmission is not worth the cost.
Representatives also focused on the energy transition from fossil fuel generators to renewable resources. Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio) asked whether intermittent renewable systems are reliable, and Commissioner Danly argued that there is no way to have the electric system run on intermittent resources and that renewable energy fleets must be backed with natural gas to ensure reliability. Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) also asked the Commission whether more must be done “to preserve reliable and dispatchable coal and natural gas” and Commissioner Mark Christie responded that regional transmission organizations and NERC have been explaining that the capacity value of wind or solar is simply not equal to coal or natural gas. Representative Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana) explained that we must be sure that energy projects of all kinds can move forward but noted that FERC pipeline certificate matters have had significant delays. Commissioner Christie responded by explaining the importance of pipeline siting, saying that increased deployment of wind and solar requires gas fuel supply as a backup.
A link to the archived video of the hearing is available here.