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Biden’s New FERC Nominees // Emissions, Renewables Rose Last Year

Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: Biden has nominated three new commissioners to FERC, the IEA reports that emissions rose despite added renewable capacity in 2023, and more.

Biden’s New FERC Nominees

President Joe Biden has nominated three new potential commissioners to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the commission faces a potential loss of quorum due to Commissioner Allison Clements’ tenure ending in June.

Here’s brief background on each nominee:

  • Judy Chang (Democrat). Chang is a managing principal at Analysis Group and has served as an undersecretary of energy and climate solutions in Massachusetts. Her background in energy policy has been largely climate focused with the bulk of her career (1997-2020) being spent at the Brattle Group, a consulting firm. Chang also possesses a technical background with degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science.

  • David Rosner (Democrat). Rosner’s nomination, if approved, would move him up the ranks at FERC. Currently, he serves as an energy industry analyst for the commission, but has been on loan to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to the White House, Rosner has worked on FERC’s rulemaking in regards to a variety of vital issues in the energy sector: energy storage, transmission, offshore wind integration, fuel security, and (perhaps most crucial) natural gas-electric coordination.

  •  Lindsay See (Republican). See is West Virginia’s solicitor general. “See argued a case — West Virginia v. EPA — at the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The court in June 2022 ruled that the EPA cannot set fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions limits for existing power plants under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d),” reports Utility Dive. 

Once Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, receives the nominations, he will move to schedule hearings. If the candidates meet approval, then the Senate as a whole will decide their fate. According to reporting from Utility Dive, the soonest the nominees could be seated is May, just a month before Clements leaves the commission. Whether or not political headwinds in an election year could delay the process remains to be seen, but could prove a significant factor.

Emissions, Renewables Rose Last Year

Despite the surge in renewable energy capacity, energy-related emissions broke a new record last year, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

“Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.1% in 2023, increasing 410 million tonnes (Mt) to reach a new record high of 37.4 billion tonnes (Gt),” reports the IEA. “This compares with an increase of 490 Mt in 2022 (1.3%) […] Between 2019 and 2023, total energy-related emissions increased around 900 Mt.”

Most of the growth in emissions came from India and China and their growing coal fleets. Coal, according to the IEA, made for over 65% of the emissions increase.

But growth isn’t the only culprit for increased emissions. Droughts have throttled the world’s hydropower fleet, which has made it more reliant on coal.

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Conversation Starters

  • EDF upped its cost estimate for nuclear reactors. “French state-owned utility EDF has raised its cost estimate for the construction of six new nuclear reactors to 67.4 billion euros ($73.18 billion), Les Echos newspaper reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources,” reports Reuters. “The utility had first estimated their cost at 51.7 billion euros, though it acknowledged that figure could rise in later estimates.”

  • The EPA spares current gas fleet from new carbon emission rules. “The Environmental Protection Agency is withdrawing plans to set greenhouse gas emissions limits for existing gas-fired power plants from a broad proposal for generator emission reductions and will develop standards in an upcoming rulemaking process, the EPA said Thursday,” reports Utility Dive. “It intends to set final GHG standards this spring for existing coal-fired power plants and new gas-fired power plants, the EPA said. ‘The agency is taking a new, comprehensive approach to cover the entire fleet of natural gas-fired turbines, as well as cover more pollutants including climate, toxic and criteria air pollution,’ EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.”

  • India expects $5 billion for northern gas pipelines. “India expects investment of about 410 billion rupees ($4.95 billion) from companies to build natural gas pipeline infrastructure in its northeastern states and northern federal territories of Kashmir and Ladakh, a minister said on Monday. India, one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, is seeking to boost the use of cleaner fuel to cut its carbon emissions and has set a 2070 goal for net zero carbon emissions,” reports Reuters. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is targeting raising the share of natural gas in India's energy mix to 15% by 2030 from the current 6.2%. Natural gas, while still a fossil fuel, emits less CO2 than coal. ‘The envisaged natural gas infrastructure development in north-east states would also lead to better utilisation of domestic gas being produced locally in the region,’ Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters.”

Crom’s Blessing

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