Former lawmaker, FERC chairman to lead new Bipartisan Policy Center panel

Source: E&E, 11-10-11 • Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011


Hannah Northey, E&E reporter


Former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) will co-chair a new Bipartisan Policy Center panel to address challenges in modernizing the electric grid and incorporating larger amounts of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

The 28-year House veteran will co-chair the panel with Curt Hebert Jr., a former chairman at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Allison Clements, director of the Project for Sustainable FERC Energy Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The group will develop recommendations for how FERC can remove market barriers to clean energy sources and new technologies while ensuring the grid is reliable. The panel will also focus on economic incentives and opportunities that stimulate market growth and inspire infrastructure development. It is expected to release final recommendations at the end of next year.

Boucher is currently a partner with top Washington law and lobbying firm Sidley Austin LLP, after losing a tight race last fall to then-state House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R) (E&E Daily, May 19). Notably, Boucher came under fire for his support of energy and climate issues during the campaign, including his vote in favor of the cap-and-trade climate bill that cleared the House in 2009.

Hebert is currently CEO at Lexicon Strategy Group, which specializes in risk assessment and business strategies. Hebert stepped down as FERC’s chairman in 2001 to become vice president at New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. (Greenwire, Feb. 24). A close ally of former Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Hebert was appointed to FERC by former President Clinton in 1997 and named FERC chairman by President George W. Bush in January 2001.

Boucher said he looks forward to working with Hebert and Clements through the “Initiative on Delivering Electric System Reliability and Clean Technology” to support FERC as it ensures grid reliability while integrating growing sources of renewable energy.

“The FERC and other agencies play an important role in both ensuring the reliability of the national electricity grid and, through regulation of interstate electricity markets, reducing barriers to the integration of clean energy technologies,” he said in a statement.

Clements said the commission has an opportunity to modernize the grid and diversify the amount of clean energy reaching consumers — renewables and demand response — and that she looks forward to making recommendations to help the agency meet its goals.

The initiative will also recruit stakeholders from energy companies, public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, academia and advocacy groups, according to the center.

FERC is in the midst of several high-profile rulemakings to revamp the process for allocating costs and planning new power lines while incorporating state goals, such as renewable portfolio standards. The agency approved Order 1000 this summer, which requires transmission providers to participate in regional planning and cost-allocation methods and to consider state and federal policies and goals (Greenwire, July 21).

Some Republicans have questioned whether customers will be saddled with paying for grid modernization projects they do not benefit from (Greenwire, Oct. 13).