FERC Chairman Wellinghoff Resigns
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff announced his intention to resign in the upcoming months. In an email, Wellinghoff affirmed that he will “continue as chairman and voting on matters before the commission” until the appointment and placement of a successor by President Obama. Chairman Wellinghoff started as a commission member of FERC in 2006 after 37 years as an energy law attorney. Wellinghoff was then appointed to FERC chairman by President Obama in March 2009.
Peter Fox-Penner, principal with the Brattle Group consulting company, views Wellinghoff as a “highly impactful FERC Chairman.” That’s a simple claim to reinforce, as Wellinghoff represented a pivotal role for many valuable decisions pertaining to smart grid development, renewable energy measures and demand response (among many others) during his time with FERC.
One of those measures was Order 1000 in 2011, which required aggressive new standards for implementing and funding the country’s grid infrastructure, offering solar and wind energy to expand its role in the sector. Former FERC Chairman Jim Hoecker wrote in Intelligent Utility that Order 1000 represented “FERC’s boldest policy-making foray since regional transmission organizations (RTOs) were authorized in 1999,” and how it “sets the table for continuing the industry-wide conversation about the appropriate path to a 21st Century electric power market.” In addition, Bloomberg stated the Order would “turbocharge the biggest transformation of the US electricity market in decades, with far-reaching consequences for the economy, consumers, utilities and investors.”
William Scherman, former general counsel for FERC, also reflected on Wellinghoff’s impact as FERC Chairman, “He’s demonstrated a strong commitment to renewables and demand-side management, and that’s certainly the policy agenda he pursued…He accomplished a lot of what he set out to do.”
As Scherman noted, demand-side management also benefitted greatly from Wellinghoff’s time at the helm. Order 745, approved in March 2012, was a considerable victory for demand response (DR) providers. Demand response is an energy efficiency service designed to alleviate strain on the electrical grid by enrolling large users of electricity and requesting reductions during times of peak usage. Companies like Energy Curtailment Specialists greatly reduce the threat of blackouts and brownouts for all customers on the power grid.
The Order required grid operators pay full market price for DR performance as long as the service was determined to be cost-effective. As a result of the FERC ruling, DR participation has increased considerably, particularly in the PJM Interconnection – the largest RTO in the country.
Wellinghoff also took on a foreign relations role during his tenure, taking part in constructive conversations with energy leaders in China. As explained on the FERC website profile of Wellinghoff, by 2011 “he successfully negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between FERC and China’s National Energy Administration…[which] benefits both organizations through the sharing of best practices, facilitating communication and providing a platform for cooperation by related enterprises from both sides.” The two sides have maintained cooperative communication since then.
In addition to his role as FERC Chairman, Wellinghoff also co-chairs the Smart Response Collaborative, is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment, is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Institute for Electric Efficiency and also co-chairs the Executive Leadership Team of the Electric Power Research Institute’s Green Transmission Efficiency Initiative. There’s no word yet on whether Wellinghoff will continue any advisory positions in Washington, or return home to Nevada.
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