New FERC office to focus on energy policy, renewables

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff has established an Office of Energy Policy and Innovation to address environmental and energy policies.

Wellinghoff announced the new office April 16 at his first monthly meeting since President Obama designated him chairman. (HNN 3/20/09) He noted the intersection between environmental policy and energy policy is becoming increasingly important.

Indeed, issues surrounding climate change, renewable resources, energy efficiency, and developing a smart grid are emerging as drivers for energy policy,” Wellinghoff said. These same issues are front and center in the emerging energy policies of the new administration and are also the subject of a number of legislative initiatives currently being considered on Capitol Hill.

Wellinghoff named Jamie Simler to direct the new office, which opens May 4. Simler has 23 years of experience in the energy industry, serving as deputy director of FERC’s Office of Energy Market Regulation since 2005.

Wellinghoff discusses priorities as chairman

At the meeting, Wellinghoff also discussed his priorities as chairman. The Nevada independent said he intends to build upon the commission’s reputation as an agency that is efficient and timely in its decision-making, respected for its technical and legal expertise, and recognized for the leadership it brings to energy issues confronting the U.S.

Toward that end, Wellinghoff said, the commission will maintain a commitment to four fundamental responsibilities: developing needed energy infrastructure; fostering competitive energy markets that produce just and reasonable rates; overseeing reliability standards; and effectively enforcing both market and reliability rules.

Wellinghoff said fulfilling those responsibilities must involve action on issues the commission has only recently begun to pursue aggressively: exploring how best to incorporate demand response and other demand resources into wholesale electric markets; enhancing transmission planning and market rules and operations to allow reliable integration of renewable energy resources; and pursuing continual improvements in operational and technical efficiency across all aspects of industries it regulates.

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