With the energy increasingly emerging as a key player in the geopolitical relation, the US Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission has expressed its interest in “updating” a 2009 agreement with India on enhancing cooperation in the sector. The FERC had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission in 2009 to identify energy-related issues and develop topics and possible agendas for exchange information and regulatory practices. Develop programmes of mutual interest and oversight of power markets; regulatory initiatives for investing in the power sector; the integration of renewable sources of energy into the electric grid; pricing of transmission services; regulatory oversight of grid reliability; technical training among others. “We would love to work on updating the MoU with India for instance, as you see energy increasingly a factor in geopolitical relations,” Neil Chatterjee, the Indian-American Commissioner of FERC told PTI in an interview. “I am very interested in it,” he said this in an apparent reference to the important role that energy is playing in the US’ bilateral ties with several countries, including India. He was the first Indian American to be appointed as the Chairman of the FERC from August 10 to December 7 when Kevin J McIntyre was designated as the new head of the powerful electricity regulatory commission. The tenure of Chatterjee as the FERC Commissioner, which was confirmed by US Senate in the first week of August, will expire on June 30, 2021. “I look at the role that FERC plays in the liquefied natural gas exportation process. I think the exportation of LNG is of interest to India and many others around the world. “That is one area of policy where I have not had a lot of focus in my career to date, where I hope to become more engaged going forward,” he said.
Chatterjee, who hails from Lexington in Kentucky, was energy policy advisor to US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He had played an integral role in the passage of major energy, highway, and farm legislations. He worked with McConnell for eight years, before being nominated for the FERC by US President Donald Trump. Prior to serving McConnell, he worked as a Principal in Government Relations for National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio. He also worked for National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents not for profit rural electricity generation and distribution systems. Chatterjee’s parents, who worked in cancer research, moved to the US from Kolkata some 50 years ago. While his father retired a few years ago, his mother is still working in cancer research at the prestigious National Institute of Health. The FERC has responsibility for overseeing electricity markets and ensuring just and reasonable rates; approving applications for infrastructure projects; and play a role in cyber security and defenses. The agency has a very important role in policymaking.
“The issues that we confront here are not really political in nature. They are technical, they are economically driven, they are market driven,” he said, adding that most of the matters are worked through consensus. Chatterjee said he wants to focus on approving infrastructure projects, and that too in a timely manner and more efficient way. He said he wants to focus on cyber-security, as he is a big believer in technology and the capacity of technology to make systems more efficient. He said FERC plays an important role in working with partners both within the government and industry stakeholders on staying ahead of the having standards as well as staying ahead of potential threats to energy infrastructure. Chatterjee said he is “very sportive of the policy direction on energy” that the Trump administration is taking.