What the hearings fight over the new FERC head means for renewables

Matthew Wald at The New York Times reports on the expected hearing tomorrow for the new head of the Federal Energy Regulatory commission. The nominee, Ronald J. Binz headed the Colorado Public Utility Commission where he promoted renewables and encouraged the closure of coal plants. The nomination is sparking a fight between pro-coal groups and environmental groups.

To me what’s as important as whether Binz can accelerate retiring of coal plants is whether once in office he would be able to do anything to improve long distance energy transmission. FERC can’t mandate the building of transmission lines but can only encourage and try to corral hundreds of fiefdoms into some sort of agreement for an improved grid. Wald has covered the mess that is the U.S. energy grid previously.

The bottom line is that effective energy transmission would bring down renewable energy costs by making it easier to locate renewable energy farms wherever is optimal as well as allow those farms to sell their energy to more markets. The major problem for renewables remains both energy storage but also moving energy to wherever it’s needed. I’m not expecting any new solutions, but the FERC nomination is one more example of where that fight can be advanced.

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Adam Lesser

Analyst Gigaom Research

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