|Chairperson of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission|
January 20, 2009
Acting: January 20, 2009 – March 19, 2009
|Preceded by||Joseph Kelliher|
May 30, 1949 |
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Nevada, Reno
Antioch School of Law
Jon Wellinghoff (born May 30, 1949) is an American attorney and energy expert who has been at the forefront of cutting-edge, energy issues such as renewable integration, plug-in electric vehicles, and the modernization of the nation’s electric grid. Currently he serves as the 13th chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines and licenses hydropower projects.
Jon Wellinghoff was born in Santa Monica, California, and moved to Reno, Nevada, at the age of four. He attended the University of Nevada-Reno, earning a B.S. in mathematics in 1971. The following year he earned a Masters degree in teaching mathematics from Howard University and stayed in Washington, DC, to attend Antioch School of Law where he earned his J.D. in 1975.
Wellinghoff returned to Nevada where he would specialize in energy law for more than 30 years. In private practice, he focused exclusively on cases pertaining to renewable energy and energy efficiency, causes he continues to promote as FERC Chairman. He was the primary author of Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of two state RPS programs to receive an “A” rating from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Wellinghoff has also held a variety of positions in the public sector, providing legal counsel on energy issues to, among others, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, the Federal Trade Commission and the Nevada Public Utility Commission.
Consumer protection was another hallmark of Wellinghoff’s career prior to joining FERC. In his hometown of Reno, he held the position of Deputy District Attorney in the Washoe County District Attorney’s Consumer Fraud division. His work on behalf of consumers helped make him Nevada’s first Consumer Advocate for customers of public utilities. In that role, he argued for the public in cases before FERC, the Nevada Supreme Court and what is now the Nevada Public Utility Commission.
Wellinghoff is married to Karen Galatz and he has four children, Andrea, Sarah, Jules, and Jacob, and three grandchildren.
In 2006, Wellinghoff was appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as one of the five commissioners at the FERC.
As commissioner, Wellinghoff was influential in moving FERC towards prioritizing the removal of barriers to integration of renewable energy into the electric grid. He has been an advocate of “demand response” and “smart grid” technologies that will facilitate coordination and communication between electricity consumers and providers, allowing consumers to have greater control over their energy usage and the associated costs.
Wellinghoff was an early proponent of improving energy infrastructure to accommodate future demands from automobiles powered primarily by electricity. He coined the phrase “Cashback Car” in a contribution to the Brookings Institution publication, “Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington?” In it, he envisioned a future where drivers not only save money by switching from gasoline but are paid by utilities for use of their batteries to provide and store electricity. Wellinghoff explained that while the necessary technology already exists, improvements to infrastructure will be needed to make the “Cashback Car” a reality.
In 2008, the Alliance to Save Energy honored Wellinghoff with its prestigious Charles Percy Award for Public Service. The non-profit group bestowed the award “in recognition of [his] decades of outstanding public service and his expertise and leadership on energy efficiency as the nation confronts the dual challenge of electricity supply security climate change.”
During his time as commissioner, Wellinghoff also received the EnerNoc Thought Leadership Award at a summit on energy efficiency and the Award for Leadership in Demand Response from the U.S. Demand Response Coordinating Committee.
On March 19, 2009, President Barack Obama named Wellinghoff as FERC Chairman. Wellinghoff quickly established three top priorities for his term: the integration of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar geothermal and hydrokinetic energy, into the electric grid; the implementation of advanced technologies aimed at making the use and distribution of energy more efficient; and the promotion of demand-side energy practices, including real-time electricity pricing and the use of electric cars. All three of these priorities will emphasize improvements to the overall efficiency of the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Wellinghoff has vowed to pursue his priorities through the implementation of regulatory practices that ensure a fair and competitive energy market, pointing out that it is through competitive energy markets that consumers will reap the full benefits of new technology.
To promote policies that will increase renewable energy and improve energy efficiency, Wellinghoff created a new office within the Commission: the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation. The office is tasked with providing leadership in the development and formulation of policies and regulations to address emerging issues affecting wholesale and interstate energy markets.
The potential of renewable energy resources to expand our energy supply while decreasing adverse environmental impact has been an interest of Wellinghoff throughout his career. Obstacles remain, however, to the full utilization of wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrokinetic energy. While these resources provide a growing share of America’s energy, they remain hampered by their often remote proximity to major population centers and other impediments. Wellinghoff has made the integration of these resources into the energy market a key aspect of his agenda.
Renewable integration will also be facilitated by another of the Wellinghoff’s priorities, the development and implementation of advanced broadband and digital technologies collectively referred to as “smart grid.” This push to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure will allow consumers and providers to make more informed decisions about how they use electricity. Problems stemming from the variable nature of some renewable energy technologies would be reduced if grid operators could easily rely on alternatives when encountering high demand or unfavorable natural conditions.
On July 16, 2009, the Commission released a Smart Grid Policy Statement setting priorities for the adoption of new standards and practices that will best enable FERC to facilitate the widespread and expedited use of smart grid technology.
A major component of an effective smart grid will be improved demand response capabilities, the third of Wellinghoff’s top priorities. Wellinghoff has labeled demand response the “killer app” for the smart grid. This form of enhanced, two-way communication would allow electricity providers to pay consumers to use less electricity. At times of peak demand (and peak prices) and other times of grid stress or need, consumers could respond by modifying their usage. Grid operators could, in turn, respond with more efficient management of available resources and avoid the high expenses associated with putting another power plant on-line to generate the electricity necessary to meet demand. Less wasted electricity would help lower prices for everyone and foster a more efficient and environmentally sustainable market. FERC’s most recent assessment of the country’s demand response potential concluded that peak demand could be reduced by as much 188 GW, or roughly 20%, by 2019.
Wellinghoff has worked to create a receptive environment for new and emerging energy technologies such as hydrokinetic energy. Under his leadership, the Commission has continued to collaborate with the Department of the Interior to incubate the growth of this technology. This partnership will facilitate the development of offshore hydrokinetic projects as well as wind and solar projects. Similarly, the Commission has signed agreements with states such as Maine and Washington that will help fast-track new projects while ensuring that associated environmental concerns are given careful agreement.
Under Wellinghoff's leadership the FERC issued Order 745 on March 15, 2011, which prescribes how providers of demand response are to be compensated in the organized wholesale markets. This order was opposed by energy economists including Professor William W. Hogan of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School. Hogan asserted that Order 745 overcompensates demand response and is likely to produce excessive curtailment of electricity usage and U.S. economic output at a time of high unemployment. Furthermore, he said that these subsidies will primarily benefit large industrial companies but will be paid for by residential customers and small businesses. Several parties, including the State of California, have filed suit against the FERC on grounds that Order 745 is anticompetitive and encroaches on the right of states to regulate retail sales of electricity. Order 745 was approved by the Commission on a 4-1 vote; Commissioner Phillip D. Moeller filed a dissenting opinion. The order was supported Dr. Alfred Kahn, then the Robert Julius Thorne Professor of Political Economy, Emeritus, at Cornell University, and Special Consultant to National Economic Research Associates, Inc. Dr. Kahn asserted that because demand response is in all essential respects economically equivalent to supply response, it should be treated and rewarded the same as generation in competitive power markets. All resources selected by the market should receive the same market-clearing price, he said. A debate regarding the economic efficiency and fairness of Order 745 appeared in a series of articles published in The Electricity Journal.
Jon Wellinghoff submitted his resignation to President Obama on May 5, 2013. He is to remain in the post until a new chairman is appointed. 
Jon Wellinghoff, “The Cashback Car,” in Plug-In Vehicles: What Role for Washington? Ed. David Sandalow (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2009), pp. 65–85. Available online at: http://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/wellinghoff/05-01-09-Wellinghoff.pdf
Jon Wellinghoff and David Morenoff, “Recognizing the Importance of Demand Response: The Second Half of the Wholesale Electric Market Equation,” Energy Law Journal, Volume 28, No. 2. November, 2007 (pp. 389–419). Available online at: http://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/wellinghoff/energy-law-journal-wellinghoff.pdf
Jon Wellinghoff and David Morenoff, “Facilitating Hydrokinetic Energy Development through Regulatory Innovation,” Energy Law Journal, Volume 29. November, 2008 (pp. 397–420). Available online at: http://www.felj.org/docs/elj292/397_-_hydrokinetics-clean_final_print_11-3-08.pdf
Jon Wellinghoff, Jim Combs, Carl Pechman and Marty Ringo. Geothermal Development on Military Lands: Development Opportunities Through the Public/Private Partnership Model. Contract to the US Navy Geothermal Program Office (September, 2003).
Jon Wellinghoff, The System Approach to Commercial Lighting. Southern California Edison Lighting Course Manual (October, 1992).
- Jonathan Falk, Paying For Demand Response at the Wholesale Level, The Electricity Journal, November 2010, Vol. 23, Issue 9, pp. 13-18.
- Robert Borlick, Paying For Demand Response at the Wholesale Level: The Small Consumer's Perspective, The Electricity Journal, November 2011, Vol. 24, Issue 9, pp. 13-19.
- Constantine Gonatas, Areas of Congruence, Yes, But 'Pseudo-Agreement' on LMP, The Electricity Journal, Jan./Feb. 2012, Vol. 25, Issue 1, pp. 1-4
Priorities as Chairman: http://www.ferc.gov/news/statements-speeches/wellinghoff/2009/04-16-09-wellinghoff.asp
Senate testimony on climate change: http://www.ferc.gov/congress/cong-test/2009/08-06-09-wellinghoff.pdf (video: http://www.ferc.gov/multimedia/08-14-2009-wellinghoff.wmv)
Statement on Smart Grid Policy Statement: http://www.ferc.gov/news/statements-speeches/wellinghoff/2009/07-16-09-wellinghoff-E-3.asp
House testimony on transmission: http://www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/Files/20090612113050-06-12-09wellinghoff-Testimony.pdf
Announcement of OEPI: http://www.ferc.gov/news/headlines/2009/2009-2/05-21-09-announcement.pdf
Interview with National Journal on a “Greener FERC”: http://www.ferc.gov/news/statements-speeches/wellinghoff/2009/04-03-09-wellinghoff-nationaljournalinterview.pdf
White House Press Release on Wellinghoff appointment: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-More-Key-Administration-Posts-3/19/09/
|Chairperson of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission