On Friday, President Vladimir Putin established the President’s Commission for the Strategic Development of the Energy Sector and Ecological Security. The Commission is to be chaired by the President with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin appointed secretary-in-charge, being responsible for the agenda and preparing the discussion materials. The Commission, which has a total of 45 members, also includes Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, other members of the government and heads of federal services, CEOs of Russia’s principal energy companies and power utilities (both private and statecontrolled) and academics. The scope of the Commission’s activities covers a broad range of topics including the strategy for developing hydrocarbon resources, the construction of the transmission systems, the taxation of the energy sector and the technical and ecological requirements.
This is the fifteenth Presidential Commission. They are formed as advisory bodies with no direct policymaking authority; that remains fully vested in the President, who issues directives on the matters discussed by the commission. That said, commissions are used as a platform for crystallizing policy debate, and from time to time do give momentum to substantial policy initiatives (for example, then President Dmitry Medvedev’s ‘ten investment theses’, which were advanced at the Commission on Modernisation in March 2011). Otherwise, the role of the commission’s secretary-in-charge enhances Sechin’s ability to defend his side of the policy debate on the energy sector. Still, Presidential Commissions shall be first and foremost regarded as a discussion platform.