FERC Chairman’s Resignation Leaves Big Clean Energy Shoes to Fill

Posted May 29, 2013

Late yesterday the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghoff, announced his resignation after a 7-year tenure (4 years as chairman) that saw the agency make unprecedented advances in supporting clean energy.

Although what FERC is and what exactly it does sometimes flies under the radar in Washington’s sound-bite frenzied environment, and outside of it, anyone and everyone who cares about curbing global warming and supports the transformation toward a clean energy economy owes Chairman Wellinghoff a profound thank you.

We had heard of his intent to depart at the end of President Obama’s first term, and while he certainly deserves the break we are sorry to see him go.  It is not exaggeration to say that Chairman Wellinghoff is responsible for a FERC that has done more to integrate renewable energy resources like wind and solar power, and also harness the potential of energy efficiency and demand response, than any of its predecessors in fulfilling the agency’s duty to regulate the interstate transmission of electricity.

Resources like energy efficiency (permanent reductions in electricity demand through more efficient appliances, windows, insulation, etc.) and demand response (voluntary customer reductions in electricity use during peak, or other, periods) can support the integration of wind and solar energy onto the high power transmission grid while maintaining reliability and, in many cases, lowering customer costs. 

But the rules that regulate the transmission grid were designed around historic, central-station fossil fuel generators, and have been a barrier to the accelerated deployment of both renewable power and demand-side resources.  Chairman Wellinghoff’s FERC has taken up the case and has made improvements in both transmission planning and market rules to remove these barriers.