Sponsored exclusively by: EDF Renewables
Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, joins us for our launch episode. After discussing the chairman’s undying love for the New York Mets and initiatives that are at the top of FERC’s agenda, our conversation inevitably turned to the continuing fallout from the Texas power crisis. We also delved into how enhanced transmission lines and grid resiliency will help power a more renewable energy future.
00:00 – Host Sean McMahon
What’s up everyone and welcome to the very first episode of the Renewable Energy SmartPod. I’m your host Sean McMahon and I got to tell you the team here at SmartBrief is very excited to launch this fun and informative podcast. We’re going to do a deep dive on the people, technology and trends that are powering the energy transition.
For this first episode, I got to confess something. When we were in pre-production, and I found out this gentleman agreed to be our guest for this launch episode. I got very excited. In fact, and I’m pretty sure I won’t get anyone into too much trouble saying this, I got very FERC-ing excited. That’s because our guest is Rich Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Now we recorded this on opening day of the baseball season. So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to give Chairman Glick just a wee bit of grief about his undying love for the New York Mets. We then moved on to have a great conversation about what’s on FERC’s agenda, and of course, the continuing fallout from the Texas freeze. We also delved into how enhanced transmission lines and grid resiliency will help power a more renewable energy transition. So I really think you’re gonna like the show. But first, here’s a word from our exclusive sponsor, EDF Renewables.
01:26 – Sponsor
EDF Renewables’ purpose is to build a net-zero energy future with electricity and innovative solutions and services to help save the planet and drive wellbeing and economic development. We’re committed to providing future generations with the means to power their lives in the most economic, environmental and socially responsible ways possible. We understand the importance of managing energy integration in a way that also enables clean energy projects to improve the electric grid. Our tailor-made solutions can solve energy challenges facing our customers, no matter the size or complexity. EDF Renewables. Energy your way.
02:05 – Sean McMahon
Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining me for this episode of the Renewable Energy SmartPod. Today I’m joined by a very special guest. Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. How are you doing today, Richard?
02:17 – FERC Chairman Richard Glick
I’m doing well, Sean. Thanks for having me today.
02:20 – Sean McMahon
You know, before we get into the heart of this conversation, I am reminded that today is not only April Fool’s Day, but also the Opening Day of the baseball season. And I understand you are quite a Mets fan. Is that correct?
02:33 – Chairman Glick
I am quite a Mets fan. I’ve learned to suffer throughout the years. And actually my son is now a Mets fan. I tell him it teaches us character. I’m very hopeful for this season.
02:41 – Sean McMahon
How does that go being a Mets fan surrounded by Nationals fans especially? I’m sure they weren’t obnoxious at all when they won the World Series.
02:50 – Chairman Glick
No actually, compared to other cities, they were pretty tame. But I go to quite a few Washington Nationals-Mets games, and I think there’s a good 15-20,000 people in there are Mets fans. So misery loves company.
03:03 – Sean McMahon
Now, as the way things work sometimes in the podcasting world, we’re recording this episode on Thursday and we plan to release it next Monday. So given your beloved Mets prodigious penchant for mediocrity, are you concerned at all that the Mets might be out of contention for the pennant by the time this podcast is released?
03:21 – Chairman Glick
I don’t think there’ll be mathematically eliminated, if that’s what you’re asking.
03:25 – Sean McMahon
Okay, enough talk about baseball. Let’s move on to what’s going on in the energy world these days. This is the 71st day of the Biden administration. So you’ve obviously been a part of the commission for a few years now, but you assumed the chairman’s role on January 20. So how are things going?
03:44 – Chairman Glick
Pretty well, so far. We’ve really tried to hit the ground running and I think we’ve accomplished a lot, so far. We’ve begun examining new approaches to capacity markets, for instance the eastern RTOs. And that is going to attempt to accommodate state clean energy policies rather than block them, which has been the policy of the Commission in the past. We’ve initiated a new proceeding to consider how to make the electric grid more resilient to severe weather, which is occurring more frequently, as we know with climate change. Severe weather incidents are going to get more intense and occur more frequently. We’ve expanded the Commission’s earlier order to facilitate aggregated distributed energy resources in wholesale markets. We reinvigorated a notice of inquiry proceeding to examine how we can improve FERC’s approach to siting interstate natural gas pipelines, which has been a significant issue over the years. We’re in the process of starting up a new Office of Public Participation. And also we’ve just, we’re in the process of creating a new senior-level position to examine environmental justice. One of the key concerns I’ve had over the years is that FERC has not done a very good job of meeting our obligations, to ensure that our decisions that we take at least environmental justice communities into account in our decision-making processes. So that’s my great hope that going forward in the future that we’ll do a much better job of taking these communities into account and the impacts of our decisions on them as we move forward and making various decisions.
05:04 – Sean McMahon
Now based on all the big proposals we’ve seen so far, we’ve certainly got a taste for how the Biden administration is embracing what’s known as a whole-of-government approach to tackling climate change. So my question for you is, while remaining an independent agency, are there any steps for it can take to sort of mesh its efforts with the goals coming out of the White House?
05:22 – Chairman Glick
Right, well, so FERC is an independent agency. So we have five commissioners currently consisting of three Republicans and two Democrats, and that changes somewhat over time. But essentially, we operate outside the direction of the President and the other offices of the executive branch. Nevertheless, it’s very clear that the President Biden and his team have made a high priority of addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. An announcement they made just this week on their infrastructure package, a significant portion of that is focused on climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is included in the electric sector.
So I think it’s pretty clear what their intent is. I think our goal isn’t necessarily to work hand-in-hand with the with the administration. But our goal is to carry out our responsibilities, which I think leads to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, the more efficient our electricity markets that we oversee are, the more efficient they are, and the more barriers that we essentially reduce for newer technologies, such as wind or solar or energy storage and other clean energy technologies. The better those markets will work, the better that will be in terms of people being able to choose electricity generation technologies that are zero emissions or close to zero emissions.
In addition, we have significant control over the interstate electric transmission system. And one of our goals is simply to facilitate greater investment in electric transmission, because there’s much more demand for transmission, especially long distance transmission lines that access what we call remotely located renewable resources, which are primarily solar and wind, or including offshore wind. But one of the things we’re going to be attacking is, how do we figure out a way to further incentivize the transmission investment, including eliminating the barriers that currently exist to planning and actually investing in those long distance lines that are going to be so much needed as the US moves towards a greener economy, but also more electrification. We’re going to be relying on additional amounts of electricity to power our vehicles, to heat our buildings, to run various industrial systems. And if we’re going to do that, we’re gonna need more electricity. We’re going to need more transmission lines to be able to access those zero emissions resources as we move forward to a cleaner energy future.
07:36 – Sean McMahon
So speaking of the transmission lines, we’re seeing already some decommissioned coal plants and things like that, renewables are coming in and kind of using those existing transmission lines. What can FERC do specifically to help, like you said, what we call the remote sources, the ones that aren’t located near existing transmission lines? I know that’s a priority to get that built out, but what steps specifically can you and the Commission take to make that happen?
07:57 – Chairman Glick
So we’re looking at that right now, but I think there are three areas in particular that we have authority over that I think are going to play a central role here.
First of all, in terms of planning of transmission. Right now, FERC requires regions to plan to engage in planning activities with regard to some of these big, long distance lines in order to meet or comply with state public policy requirements or federal public policy requirements, for that matter. And so as an increasing number of states are opting for greener technologies, it seems to me that that particular element needs to be included in the transmission planning process. But one of the areas that transmission planning seems to fall short today is inter-regional transmission. So this regional transmission planning is going on, but sometimes you need to build very long distance lines across more than one region. For example, maybe South Dakota, where it’s very windy, for instance, all the way down to Tennessee. In order to be able to do that you’re going to have to have inter-regional planning. That’s one of the areas we’re going to look at is do we need to encourage or require the regions to plan together to focus on inter-regional transmission lines.
Secondly, we have authority over the cost allocation, how we allocate cost responsibility when a new transmission line is built. And it seems to be one of the areas that we need to take a look at is do we need to expand how we look at these lines? So for instance, if a transmission line — a new transmission line — is built, or an upgrade is added, do we look at the beneficiaries in the local area or do we look to the fact that by building this transmission line, we’re gonna bring in a lot of cheap power, a lot of cleaner power, and there’s gonna be beneficiaries across the broader region so that we spread out the cost of those transmission lines. Which if that occurs, I think it’s more likely to encourage investments in those transmission facilities.
In addition to that, I think it’s very important that we figure out a way to also incentivize, as I mentioned earlier, investments in the transmission grid. And FERC has authority, Congress gave us authority back in 2005, to provide incentives for new transmission development, including transmission that would access renewable resources, and we have a variety of tools in the tool belt, so to speak. We’ll be looking at them, but I think one of the things we need to figure out is, do we need to provide incentives specifically for transmission facilities that help meet either the federal clean energy goals or state clean energy goals in a manner that will, again, lead to additional investment?
10:15 – Sean McMahon
You mentioned the part of figuring out the web of transmission includes working with various regional stakeholders. So when it comes to the minimum offer price rule, one of the, I guess, messages that came out of some of the comments from yourself and other commissioners recently was that you’re willing to let the regional stakeholders sort it out. But if they don’t, FERC might step in and solve it. How long are you willing to wait?
10:36 – Chairman Glick
Right. Well, I can’t give you an exact number of days or months, but I will say this: This has been a matter of great frustration for me since I joined the commission back in 2017. FERC has a responsibility under the Federal Power Act, essentially, to defer to the states, in terms of state decisions about what the generation resource mix should be like. But instead, we’ve implemented these MOPRs, at least in the three Eastern RTOs that have mandatory capacity markets, in a matter that really attempts to block the state clean energy policies or state energy policies in general. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a clean energy policy. But state subsidized resources somehow are treated like second-class citizens in these RTO capacity market auctions.
And as I mentioned earlier, it’s been a matter of great frustration for me because FERC, in my opinion, has meddled in the markets. And instead of even addressing proposals that came from regions, we took an att- the Commission, the majority of the Commission, their attitude was, ‘Well, we know better than the regions, so we’re going to tell them how to do their business.’ And so what we’ve done is, I believe, both unlawfully, and in a matter that is clearly bad policy, that we have essentially really made it very difficult for regions and states in those regions to promote the kind of generation resources they want to promote.
So, as I mentioned, I would prefer to have the regions work on their own to address some of these issues. Come to us with a proposal because I think it’s better that they know what their specific issues are on the ground and I think they have a number of involvement of a number of states in that decision making process. But we can’t allow it to go on forever, because we also have a responsibility to make sure that the markets that we oversee are just and reasonable, pursuant to the Federal Power Act. So what I’ve said to the RTOs and to the various stakeholders in the regions, ‘You sit down, you work it out, you come to us with proposal will adjudicate whether it’s just and reasonable.’
But I’m also concerned that sometimes these decision making processes can lead to a lot of inertia. And so if the states don’t act, as I mentioned, we will certainly act for them because we do have a responsibility to ensure regions’ rates and terms are just and reasonable in terms of the wholesale markets that we oversee. We’re gonna give them a little bit of a leash here and let them come up with their own proposals. But if they don’t, at least I would like to see, working with my colleagues, we’ll figure out an approach to do it for them.
12:55 – Sean McMahon
All right. Now, before we transition to some of the stories have been dominating the headlines, I want to ask you one more question about the day-to-day operations at FERC. Are there any surprises you might have encountered when you became chairman? I know you’ve been there for a while now, but things can look different from the chairman’s perspective. And along those same lines, are there any topics or issues that the public might be surprised to learn that the Commission spends a tremendous amount of time tackling?
13:18 – Chairman Glick
So I think two ways of answering that question.
First of all, so I was at FERC for three years and I certainly had, I think, a good sense of the issues that came before the commission and what we were called to vote upon. But it’s one thing to read an order or read a draft order and vote yes or no. And if you vote no, write a dissent as to why you don’t agree with the majority opinion. But it’s another thing – and this has been, I wouldn’t say a surprise. But it’s been a learning experience for me – it’s another thing to be the chair and be responsible for getting the orders out. So for instance, we work with our colleagues as much as possible to build as much consensus as possible to get the orders out whether it be unanimous or hopefully, certainly a super majority. That’s our goal, in all cases. So that’s quite a bit of extra work than I had originally anticipated. It’s important work and I have no problem doing it. But it’s been a little bit harder than I thought it would be in terms of just making sure we, you know, corral everybody together and try to get on the same page as much as possible.
Secondly, in terms of issues, I think the one area that the public probably doesn’t know as much time as we spent on this issue, although I think each of the commissioners certainly knows it, is cybersecurity. So we have a responsibility to ensure the reliability of what they call the bulk power system. And we’re I’m sure we’re going to be talking about Texas and what happened in recent cold weather event. But with regard to cybersecurity, it’s very important from our perspective, and our various the various other government agencies that work on this, to ensure that utilities are doing what they can to guard against the attacks they’re receiving, and try to ensure as much as possible that whatever attacks that are made on their systems aren’t successful.
14:58 – Sean McMahon
We’ll be right back with more of my conversation with Chairman Glick, and we’ll hear his thoughts on the Texas freeze. But first, one of the big goals of this podcast is to shine a spotlight on the organizations that are powering the energy transition. You want to know a company that’s done a heck of a job of doing just that? EDF Renewables.
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Okay, you mentioned Texas and the cold weather event down there and we’d be talking about that, so let’s get to it. A lot of folks down there suffered through a absolutely brutal Valentine’s Day weekend. What do you think were the biggest causes of the power outages?
15:44 – Chairman Glick
So FERC and NERC are in the process of engaging in what we call a joint inquiry to determine what the actual causes were. And certainly, it’s not just Texas. I want to make clear that there were also some issues in other states in the middle part of the country. Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and so on, as well had suffered some issues, although Texas clearly bore the brunt of it. But I don’t want to get out ahead of the joint inquiry. But clearly weather was a significant part of the problem.
16:11 – Sean McMahon
Yeah. Pretty sure that played a role, right.
16:14 – Chairman Glick
Yeah. That I can say with some certainty without having the results of the inquiry on my desk. But I think one of the things, one of the lessons we’re taking from it right now is, we know that climate change and extreme weather are occurring on a much more frequent basis. The kind of 1-in-100 year storms now happen once every several years, whether that be extreme cold or extreme heat, or wildfires in the West, for instance, or more intense hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, or the Atlantic Ocean, for instance. Those are areas that we need to pay much more attention to because it threatens the resilience of the grid.
And one thing I think we learned from Texas, you know, sometimes when people lose power, it’s a nuisance. You can charge your phone, for instance, for a couple of hours. And that’s obviously not something we get frustrated with. But when you lose your power for more than a couple of hours, it’s not just a nuisance anymore. It’s a matter of life and death, especially during extreme weather, whether it be extreme cold or extreme heat. And a number of people – it sounds like more than 100 people in Texas lost their lives as associated with the loss of power there.
And so I think we need to, again, reinvigorate what we’re doing at FERC in terms of looking at grid resilience. One of the things that I’ve done is, we’ve scheduled what’s called a technical conference, which is our version of like a congressional hearing, essentially, to examine how we can make the grids around the country more resilient to extreme weather events. We’ll be discussing that with folks around the country. But I think what’s important is that as I mentioned earlier, these events occur regionally. So we’re gonna try to take a look on a regional basis, what can be done, what investments need to be made, whether FERC and NERC, we actually have joint responsibility to issue of mandatory standards on electric generators and transmission owners to better prepare for these types of events. So we’re going to be taking a look at everything.
18:01 – Sean McMahon
One thing that kind of shocked me coming out of the immediate aftermath of the freeze, or even during it, was the finger pointing that kind of went on, in terms of which sources were responsible for it. Was it gas or renewables? What was your reaction to all that?
18:16 – Chairman Glick
You know, this happened after what happened to California last August had a couple days where they had some rolling blackouts, not nearly as severe as Texas, but nonetheless significant enough that it made the news and people were focusing on what happened. And at the time, former commissioner LaFleur was quoted as saying these events are like a political Rorschach test. Essentially, that everyone sees, in these events, what they want to see. So people that don’t like renewable energy, blame renewable energy. People that don’t like nuclear power will blame nuclear power and vice and whether it be coal gas. Everyone has their source that they pick on.
I think one of the things that we saw, at least again, we’re still examining it, but at least we from preliminary perspective, is that the electric generator facilities across the board, suffered from outages related to the cold weather. There’s a lesson to be learned there too, because back in 2011, Texas and New Mexico had extreme cold weather, just like what occurred a few weeks ago. And in that case, there was another inquiry made. A very lengthy report issued. And one of the items that was pointed out was that the fact that these generating facilities weren’t weatherize sufficiently. They couldn’t deal with cold weather, so they all shut down regardless of what the fuel source were for these generating facilities. And so what happened was the report suggested that they should have these standards. And somehow, when it went through the standard process, it became voluntary guidelines as opposed to standards. And what happened there is that of course generating facilities, if you’re in a competitive market, like Texas is, you’re not going to make the investment to weatherize your facility if your competitor isn’t going to make that investment because then you’re going to be at a cost disadvantage. And so no one, or very few people, actually made the necessary investments to weatherize their plants and we saw what happened as a result.
My goal in this whole inquiry with regard to Texas is to say: We’re going to have a report. There’s going to be recommendations. We’re not going to prejudge the matter. But if there are recommendations that action is going to be taken, we need to take that action and make it mandatory, not make the same mistake that was made last time.
Back to your point on the different technologies and so on. You know, again, I think there are people out there at first were trying to blame renewable energy. And again, the wind farms certainly had, and solar projects, certainly had their share of issues. But if you look at total number of megawatts, some of the fossil fuel generating facilities – the outages they were much more significant than renewables. So I don’t think there’s anything to be learned from that in terms of are we too reliant on one source of fuel or another.
On the natural gas side, this is something we need to take a look at. There seems to be not only a breakdown in terms of plants that run on natural gas, but also the natural gas fuel delivery system, whether it be pipelines that might have frozen, or even the production facilities that froze, pipes froze, and so on at the production facilities. And so I think it’s very important that when we look at reliability, it’s not just electric reliability, reliability of the transmission grid, reliability of the generating plants, it’s also the reliability of the fuel systems that supply those electric generation plants. And so that’s something we need to take a look at it well, and I think Congress might need to take a look at and decide whether to give FERC or any other agency additional authority to ensure that, for instance, the natural gas supply system is more resilient than it currently is today.
21:26 – Sean McMahon
Do you have any concern that this might end up being one of the situations that people refer to as privatized profits and socialized losses? And I ask that because even last week, Warren Buffett proposed an $8.3 billion build out of natural gas in Texas. But it sounds like that plan would call for ratepayers to pick up the tab.
21:45 – Chairman Glick
I’ll leave it up to Texas to decide. I know there’s also a bill introduced in the legislature to somewhat implement Mr. Buffett’s plan, and I don’t know enough to comment whether that would work or not. It strikes me as — if the problem is, for instance, fuel supply, you can build all the gas plants you want, that’s not going to help you if pipelines don’t work, or the production isn’t working. So that’s something for Texas to decide. I do think there’s an element of, there’s probably an element of there’s going to be shared cost responsibility to again, make the grid more resilient. But I would argue that those investments are important. You know the all saying ‘You can pay me now or pay me later.’ Well, I think we’ve seen what happens when you don’t pay me now. Again, if those investments had been made back in 2011, it’s possible — and again, our inquiry will further elaborate on this — but it’s possible that we wouldn’t have seen the problems that occurred more recently. And not only the problems that occurred in terms of having to make the investments in the grid now. But think of all the damage that was done to the water systems, to people’s property, and obviously, not to mention, the loss of life.
So I think, to the extent that if everyone’s going to pay a little bit more on their electric bill or their natural gas bill to make the system more resilient, it’s an investment that probably worthwhile because it’s going to cost a lot more if those investments aren’t made.
23:03 – Sean McMahon
Shifting a little bit to renewables, FERC has already taken action related to distributed energy resources. Why do you view that as such an important issue? And where do you see that headed?
23:13 – Chairman Glick
So yeah, we’re very proud of that. The Commission last year issued a rule which essentially said, at least in the regions that have organized markets, that those organized markets need to eliminate whatever barriers might exist to the participation of aggregated distribute energy resources, let’s call them DERs, their participation in the wholesale markets. So the regions are very putting together various approaches now to respond to the Commission’s requirement. And I think it’s going to unleash a dramatic amount of distributed energy resource development.
So right now, for the most part, when you have like solar panels on your roof, or factories or so on engage in demand response, or even small wind, usually, that’s considered most of that it’s been behind the meter. And it’s been used to reduce — the power generated from those facilities has essentially been used to reduce the demand for energy, which has been extremely helpful. But to be able to provide an opportunity for those facilities to also participate, when they have extra power, to also participate in the wholesale markets around the country I think is going to certainly provides another revenue stream for those technologies, but it’s also going to increase the number of projects that are developed. Because again, you’re gonna have more opportunity to sell it sell the output of the power not just to reduce your own needs, your own power needs, at your house, for instance, or your factory. So I think that’s definitely beneficial.
We actually issued an order last month which further expanded upon those rights and further expanded upon the types of distributed energy resource facilities that are going to going to be able to aggregate and participate in our wholesale markets. And we’re very excited about that. But it also provides a good opportunity to improve on resilience and reliability. Because those facilities essentially can be used not only to provide extra power to the regions, but also can be used, as I mentioned earlier, to reduce the demand on the grid.
And so for instance, on a very hot day, when you always hear these, you turn on the radio or the television and the local utility company is asking you to conserve and that’s very important. If you can eliminate your reliance on the grid for those for a few hours and use the power generated at the solar panels on your house, for instance, or something like that, you actually can reduce the demand on the grid, the strain on the grid, which can help eliminate and prevent rolling blackouts. It also provides another area of diversity to the extent that if there is a major power outage scenario, if you have your own system, you’ll be able to still provide electricity to yourself and keep the lights on in your house or your factory. There are lot of benefits associated with DERs. And like I said, I’m very proud that we were able to work on this on a bipartisan basis at FERC. I think it’s very important to move forward with these types of programs, in large part because our responsibility under the Federal Power Act is to prevent discrimination. And to the extent that there are rules and markets that prevent, whether it be a storage facility, or whether it be a distributed energy resources, or a wind farm, or any new technology out there, or newer technology that might not have been very feasible when a lot of these market rules are created 30 or 40 years ago. To the extent we can eliminate those discriminatory rules that prevent those technologies from taking advantage of the market, we’re going to add to our resources around the country and do, again what the Federal Power Act tells us to do, which is eliminate discrimination.
26:23 – Sean McMahon
Okay, and speaking of distributed energy resources, we have a newsletter. It’s called a Renewable Energy SmartBrief. And when I found out I’d be talking to you, I sent out a message to the readers asking them to submit questions that I could consider asking you. And I got a good one from Mike Bergey from the Distributed Wind Energy Association. So Mike’s question is pretty long, so I hope you don’t mind if I just go ahead and read it to you: In the distributed wind space, we sometimes encounter rural electric coops that deny interconnection and violation of PURPA 210 or apply anti-competitive practices such as requiring excessive liability insurance or switching to a demand charge dominated rate structure. In the cases where the state PUC lacks jurisdiction over coops, such as Oklahoma, is there any recourse that FERC can offer? These installations are at distribution voltages and the energy is not sold in interstate commerce.
27:11 – Chairman Glick
Well, I am reluctant to prejudge the matter because it might come before us. I would just say that there are provisions in Section 210 that he mentioned with regard to interconnections that might be worthwhile taking a look at. But given that it is, we’re talking about distribution level connections, we generally don’t have authority over that. There may not be a lot of avenues available to them, but I’d urge them to come talk to us because I’m reluctant to, again, make a judgement without knowing. If they might make a filing, I don’t want to pre-judge the matter.
27:44 – Sean McMahon
I completely understand that.
I also was talking yesterday to Tristan Grimbert, the President and CEO of EDF Renewables. When I mentioned I was gonna be talking to you today. First of all, I asked him if he wanted to say hello. But then I also asked him if he had any questions that he’d like me to pose to you. So he took me up on it. Obviously, he says you guys have known each other while and he passes along as best wishes. And then he wanted to ask a little bit about transmission. And I know we’ve covered transmission a lot already in this conversation, you know, the build out and what FERC can do. So he was wondering, like how can FERC help with the build out of more transmission and storage to help promote the renewable energy future? And so again, I know we’ve discussed this a bit, but Tristan was really looking specifically at the different time horizons for delivery of that storage. so short, medium, and long. Where does FERC fit into the puzzle of trying to help that transmission build out and the storage build out?
28:29 – Chairman Glick
Sure, first of all, please say hi to Tristan, as well as Mike Bergey for me. I’ve become acquainted with them in previous positions I’ve had back in the private sector. With regard to this particular issue, it’s an important question. So even if everything were to go right, and a transmission, a particular transmission line were to be developed, it still takes a number of years, a good number of years, for that project, from time to planning to the time of permitting and approvals and then the time of construction, it still takes, you know, maybe on the best days, maybe six or seven years, I’m guessing as opposed to maybe 10 years or longer. It takes a long time.
So I think what we need to do at FERC, for instance, and other parts of the government is say ‘What can we encourage in the short term? What might take a little bit longer for us to work on?’ For instance, order 1000, order number 1000 at FERC, which was the kind of our landmark order with regard to transmission planning and cost allocation among the regions. There are a number of issues raised and I think I’ve said before, I think that particular order needs some updating and modernizing. That might take a while through the regulatory process. And it may take, you know, a couple of years or hopefully less than that. But it certainly is going to take some time before we make the necessary regulatory changes to enhance what FERC has already done. In the meantime, one of the things we’ll be looking at is what can we do in the short term? What can we do to encourage or incent better planning, better interregional planning, better approach to allocating the cost of a transmission line?
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say a project developer wants to build a wind farm. In order to interconnect that wind farm to the grid, he may have to pay a significant amount of money for what they call a network upgrade to essentially facilitate that new transmission line getting interconnected to the grid. But it may be that that wind power developer may be the first of like five wind farms that are going to be developed in that area. Under the current approach in most regions, that first wind farm developer has to pay the entire cost for that network upgrade. And that is problematic because in many cases, the wind farm developer can’t afford to build it. Then you go to the next wind farm developer and he can’t afford to build it as well. He can’t afford to pay for that network upgrade. We need to figure out a better approach. And one of the things we’re wondering at FERC is, can we move on something like that more quickly while we take care of some of the broader and more complicated regulatory matters over the longer term. And so that’s one of the things we’re taking a look at. Maybe can we divide up into different approaches into a short, medium and longer term approach to try to get done what we can today so as to not to delay the benefits that can occur in the short term, until we make some of the longer term regulatory changes that are going to be important for unleashing the grid of the future.
31:12 – Sean McMahon
And now one of the things we like to do with this podcast is try to keep things a little more fun. Obviously, we’re talking about a policy in this conversation and, and so I want to pivot right now. We have a little bit that we do. We call it “Renewable energy project or NOT a renewable energy project.”
And so the way this works, and it’s really kind of a fun look at all the majestic and imaginative names that a lot of renewable energy project developers give their projects. And so what’s going to happen here is Producer Tom is going to come on the line and he has spent some time in the interwebs researching names for renewable energy projects. And he’s gonna quiz both of us. Mr. Chairman, he’s gonna quiz you me. I have no idea what he’s come up with. He’s going to read off four names and you and I are going to guess which project is fake.
31:56 – Chairman Glick
31:57 – Sean McMahon
Okay. Tom, floor is yours.
32:04 – Producer Tom
Thank you, Sean and welcome chairman. As Sean said, I have four names in front of me. Three are real. One is not real. So the nominees are number one, Maple Ridge Wind farm. Number two, Sandy Creek Solar. Number three, Albany Ascent Wind Farm. And number four, Horse Creek Wind Farm.
32:38 – Sean McMahon
Alright Mr. Chairman, I’m gonna let you take the first stab at it. I will either ride your coattails or maybe go in a different direction. Go ahead.
32:46 – Chairman Glick
I know Maple Ridge is the project because it’s associated with a company I used to work for many years ago. I think Horse Creek is a project I believe. I’m guessing Sandy Creek is a project. So I’m gonna go with Albany Ascent.
32:59 – Producer Tom
Albany Ascent, and Sean.
33:03 – Sean McMahon
Alrighty. I’m suspicious of Producer Tom and the fact that two of these options will have the word “creek” in them: Sandy Creek and Horse Creek. So I’m gonna go Sandy Creek.
33:14 – Producer Tom
All right. Well, let’s start with the two that you didn’t choose from gentlemen. Maple Ridge Wind Farm is in fact a real project. Horse Creek Wind Farm is in fact a real project. So is it Sean or Chairman Glick? Congratulations, Chairman Glick. Albany Ascent is not a wind farm. You win.
33:38 – Chairman Glick
What do I win?
33:40 – Sean McMahon
$100 billion. Chairman Glick, you can retire right now!
33:44 – Chairman Glick
That sounds fair.
33:45 – Sean McMahon
All right. Well, that’s all the time we have today. Mr. Chairman, I certainly appreciate your time. This has been fun. Thank you and have a great day.
33:51 – Chairman Glick
Thanks for having me.
33:58 – Sean McMahon
Well, that’s our show for today. We’d like to thank our exclusive sponsor, EDF Renewables. If you’d like to learn more about what EDF Renewables is doing to power the energy transition, join me next week when I chat with the firm’s president and CEO Tristan Grimbert.
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