Looking to India for lessons in how to meet future energy challenges

Feb 07, 2023 by Energy Connects
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Mark Christie, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) USA

In an exclusive interview with India Energy Week News, Mark Christie, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) USA, outlines why India is a vital partner for the USA in the energy sector and beyond the challenges of decarbonisation, and striking the right balance in an energy policy.

Commissioner Christie, welcome to India Energy Week.

I am honoured to be invited! Let me start with my standard disclaimer that is applicable to this interview. All views expressed in this interview are my personal views alone, not necessarily those of other FERC commissioners or the official position of FERC or other agencies of the United States government, and I am not expressing any opinion on any formal matter now pending before FERC.

How important a partner is India to the US?

Very important! India is a major economic and political partner of the United States and is a vitally important part of the global economy. I look to India for lessons in how to meet future energy challenges in a way that promotes economic growth and a rising standard of living for people, which is essential to maintain political support for necessary efforts to reduce carbon emissions globally.

How is FERC sharing its experience and expertise in India?

My agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (USA), entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (India) two years ago “to share regulatory experiences and practices.” I am meeting with my CERC counterparts in New Delhi later this week to listen to their views and discuss with them possible solutions to the energy challenges faced by both the USA and India. I am also meeting in New Delhi with India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board to listen to and discuss issues of mutual concern.

How is FERC managing the changing energy landscape in the US?

FERC’s legal authority is to regulate the bulk power system in the USA, which includes wholesale power sales and interstate transmission. I have frequently said that FERC’s primary job under the legal authority Congress has given us is twofold: first, to protect consumers from costs that are unjust and unreasonable, and second, to ensure a reliable power system. The first job requires us to prevent manipulation of regional power markets and to make sure that rate structures are properly designed.

The second job requires us to make sure that reliability standards are sufficient and that power markets are designed to ensure sufficient power supply to maintain the reliability of the grid. FERC also is the permitting agency for interstate natural gas pipelines. It is critically important that sufficient pipeline capacity is built to serve the growing need for natural gas-fired electric generation.

Gas generation is an essential component of America’s power generation resource fleet and will be even more essential to balance electric power demand with supply as decarbonisation proceeds. The USA must have sufficient supplies of natural gas to keep our power system reliable, and that takes sufficient capacity to transport the natural gas.

As India, the USA and the world face the challenge of decarbonisation, what do you think is the right energy policy?

My personal views on energy policy are as follows: Reducing carbon emissions from the power sector is absolutely necessary, but for this process to succeed we need to accept several undeniable realities:

  1. During the process, fossil energy will continue to play an essential role in the world energy mix for many years to come, until the necessary technology is developed, at an industrial scale and affordable costs to consumers, that can provide the same economic and reliability benefits as fossil energy does, but with significantly lower carbon emissions

  2. Energy policy must be considered in the context of energy security, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated once again

  3. Energy policy must be about economic growth, jobs, and rising standards of living for the world’s people, not just about changing the energy mix, or there will be insufficient political support for decarbonisation

  4. Renewables, while very important and valuable because they have no fuel cost or carbon emissions, are one, but not the only, component of a realistic and serious energy strategy.


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