Climate Now Episode 83

January 23, 2023

How to fix the clean energy bottleneck


Featured Experts

Neil Chatterjee
Former Commissioner and Chairman, FERC


Neil Chatterjee

Former Commissioner and Chairman, FERC

Neil Chatterjee is a former Commissioner and Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He has also been a policy advisor for Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and former US Representative Deborah Pryce (R-OH).

In this Episode

In 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an executive order with the directive to achieve 100% carbon-pollution free electricity in the United States by 2030. The goal is certainly achievable: currently wind and solar are the cheapest forms of electricity generation, the installed capacity of utility-scale solar and wind has increased more than 2000% in the last 15 years, and there are already 1.3 terawatts (TW) of clean energy generation + storage projects seeking to connect to the grid, roughly enough for the grid to reach 80% zero-carbon electricity. But it is one thing to plan clean energy generation facilities, and another to build and connect those facilities into the national power grid, which is done with the oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC is required to regulate the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, an electricity, which means they work to ensure that a hypothetical wind project in Iowa transmitting electricity to Chicago, Illinois follows all federal and state permitting requirements along its entire path. That gets complicated, and currently those 1.3 TW of clean energy projects are sitting in a backlog that is taking several years to process. Neil Chatterjee, Chairman of FERC in 2017 and again from 2018-2020, joined Climate Now to explain why getting new clean power connected to the grid is so difficult, how the process can be streamlined, and why that is so critical to reaching the U.S.’s climate goals. Stay tuned!

Key Questions:

  1. There are more than 1.4 terawatts of energy generation and storage projects (mostly renewable energy) waiting for federal approval – why the backlog?  
  2. What is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) planning to do to address the backlog?
  3. How will new clean energy projects be able to more smoothly connect to national energy grids in the future?

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