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Posts Tagged ‘Chairman Jon Wellinghoff’

MendoCoastCurrent, June 25, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today proposed to build on its Order No. 890 open access transmission reforms by establishing a closer link between regional electric transmission planning and cost allocation to help ensure that needed transmission facilities actually are built.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) is based on an extensive record: three years of monitoring implementation of Order No. 890, three regional technical conferences and examination of more than 150 sets of comments filed in response to an October 2009 request for comment on transmission planning and cost allocation. It proposes and seeks comment on requiring:

  • Transmission providers to establish a closer link between cost allocation and regional transmission planning by identifying and establishing cost allocation methods for beneficiaries of new transmission facilities;
  • Transmission planning to take into account needs driven by public policy requirements established by state or federal laws or regulations;
  • Neighboring transmission planning regions to improve their coordination with respect to facilities that are proposed to be constructed in two adjacent regions and could address transmission needs more efficiently than separate intraregional facilities; and
  • The removal from Commission-approved tariffs or agreements provisions that provide an undue advantage to an incumbent developer so that sponsors of transmission projects have the right, consistent with state or local laws or regulations, to build and own facilities selected for inclusion in regional transmission plans.

“Our nation needs a transmission grid that can accommodate rising consumer demand for a more diverse mix of power generators and the sophisticated technology of the smart grid,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “To do that, we must make sure FERC transmission policies are open and fair to all.”

A significant aspect of the proposal is the requirement that transmission planning take into account public policy requirements, such as state-mandated renewable portfolio standards. Doing so during the transmission planning process will help ensure these legal requirements are met in a way that is fair and efficient to transmission customers.

The proposal also ties cost allocation to the regional transmission planning processes to facilitate the transition from planning to implementation. This ensures that only those consumers benefiting from transmission facilities are charged for associated costs, and gives each region the first opportunity to develop cost allocation mechanisms and identify how the benefits of transmission facilities will be determined. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 24, 2010

Public institutions and private sector organizations from across the country should form a coalition to help states, localities and regions develop and deploy successful and cost-effective electric demand response programs, a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff report says.

The coalition effort is the centerpiece of the National Action Plan on Demand Response Report , issued today, that identifies strategies and activities to achieve the objectives of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“There is strength in numbers. Coalitions harness the combined energy of individual organizations, producing results that can go far beyond what can be accomplished on an individual basis,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “The success of this National Action Plan depends on all interested public and private supporters working to implement it.”

The public-private coalition outlined in the National Action Plan would coordinate and combine the efforts of state and local officials, utilities and demand response providers, regional wholesale power market operators, electricity consumers, the federal government and other interest groups. Demand response refers to the ability of customers to adjust their electricity use by responding to price signals, reliability concerns or signals from the grid operator. Demand response is a valuable resource for meeting the nation’s energy needs.

The 2007 law required FERC to identify the requirements for technical assistance to states so they can maximize the amount of demand response that can be developed and deployed; design and identify requirements for a national communications program that includes broad-based customer education and support; and develop or identify analytical tools, information, model regulations and contracts and other materials for use by customers, states, utilities and demand response providers.

The National Action Plan applies to the entire country, yet recognizes Congress’ intent that state and local governments play an important role in developing demand response. It is the result of more than two years of open, transparent consultation with all interested groups to help states, localities and regions develop demand response resources.

The National Action Plan on Demand Response is available at here.

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JEFF ST.  JOHN, Earth2Tech, March 1, 2010

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff wants his agency to have a lot more authority over planning cross-state transmission lines, as well as getting states and utilities to share the costs of building them. But on Monday, the utility industry pushed back. The Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy — an industry group made up of 10 big utilities including Southern Co., Consolidated Edison, Alliant, DTE Energy, PPL, Progress Energy and PSEG — says it will lobby to change proposed Senate legislation that it says could unfairly spread the costs of building big new transmission lines across multiple states. Or, to put it another way, “states and regions that get the benefits of new transmission should be the ones to pay for them,” Bruce Edelston, the coalition’s executive director, said Monday.

The coalition has a specific target —Senate Bill 1462, otherwise known as the American Clean Leadership Act. It wants to take out language from the bill that would give FERC more authority over transmission lines, and replace it with language that “precludes the allocation of transmission expansion costs to electric consumers unless there are measurable economic or reliability benefits for those consumers.”

Wellinghoff has said his agency needs more power to force states to agree on new ways to share the costs of massive new transmission lines to carry clean power from the places it’s most cheaply produced to where it’s most needed. Without it, he told a Senate panel in March, “it is unlikely that the Nation will be able to achieve energy security and economic stability.”

But FERC having more power could involve, for example, a transmission line from a North Dakota wind farm to Illinois’ Chicago suburbs, which might cross three states along its route. How should those “middle mile” states, which have to give up land and cover some costs of maintaining those lines, but may not receive power, be given a piece of the action? In Edelston’s view, the costs and benefits of such undertakings should be shared equally among all regions that have to give something up to let them happen. If a project can’t pay for itself while providing some financial benefit to utility customers in each of those states, it shouldn’t get built, he said.

President Barack Obama has called for 3,000 miles of new transmission lines to be built to help the country double its renewable energy use by 2012. Estimates on the costs of this new interstate energy highway system range from $100 billion to $200 billion, Edelston said — and those costs may be underestimated. A consortium of Eastern power grid operators said last year that transmission to carry wind power from the Midwest to the East could cost $80 billion over the next 15 years or so.

Wellinghoff has said that with such scale of the transmission lines needed, it might be hard to move quickly through the complicated, state-by-state siting and permitting mechanisms now in place — and that’s not to mention the universal opposition to having high-voltage power lines running through your backyard or environmentally sensitive region. For a sampling of the barriers to new transmission lines even within one state’s boundaries, look to California, where one big transmission line in the Central Valley was canceled in the face of local landowner and environmental opposition, and another in San Diego and Imperial counties is being challenged in court.

But Edelston pointed out that transmission projects are still moving forward under business-as-usual conditions, and several projects are underway by “Green Power Express” developer ITC for example. Other private efforts are underway, such as the Tres Amigas project that would connect the nation’s three mega-grid systems in the East, West and in Texas. Transmission projects take years to plan, permit and build, however, making long-range financing a challenge.

Not all utilities are against FERC’s sought-after expanded authority. American Electric Power, which serves 11 states, urged a Senate panel in March to expand federal authority over new transmission lines, including more broad cost-sharing, saying the economic benefits will outweigh the costs. FERC has already signed a MOU with EPA and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and the Interior to work together on siting and permitting new transmission lines on federal lands, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of states and their utilities arguing over costs and benefits.

For companies making next-generation transmission equipment such as HVDC and superconducting wire and cable — not to mention developers of utility-scale renewable power projects in hard-to-reach areas — it’s an important controversy to keep an eye on.

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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 2009

article_photo1_smWhen giving his slide presentation on America’s new energy direction, Jon Wellinghoff sometimes sneaks in a picture of himself seated in a midnight blue, all-electric Tesla sports car.

It often wins a laugh, but makes a key point: The United States is accelerating in a new energy direction under President Obama’s newly appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). At the same time, FERC’s key role in the nation’s energy future is becoming more apparent.

Energy and climate legislation now pending in Congress would put in FERC’s hands a sweeping market-based cap-and-trade system intended to lower industrial greenhouse-gas emissions.

Besides its role granting permits for new offshore wind power, the agency is also overseeing planning for transmission lines that could one day link Dakota wind farms to East Coast cities, and solar power in the Southwest to the West Coast.

“FERC has always been important to power development,” says Ralph Cavanagh, energy program codirector for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group. “It’s just that people haven’t known about it. They will pretty soon.”

That’s because Mr. Wellinghoff and three fellow commissioners share an affinity for efficiency and renewable energy that’s not just skin-deep, Mr. Cavanagh and others say.

Wellinghoff started his energy career as a consumer advocate for utility customers in Nevada before being appointed by President Bush in 2005 as a FERC commissioner. He was a key author of “renewable portfolio standards” that require Nevada’s utilities to incorporate more renewable power in their energy mix. Now he’s the nation’s top energy regulator.

It’s clear that FERC has a mandate to speed change to the nation’s power infrastructure, Wellinghoff says.

When it comes to the extra work and complexity FERC will encounter if Congress appoints FERC to administer a mammoth carbon-emissions cap-and-trade program, Wellinghoff is eager, yet circumspect.

“We believe we are fully capable of fulfilling that role with respect to physical trading [of carbon allowances],” he says during an interview in Washington. “We’ve demonstrated our ability to respond efficiently and effectively to undertake those duties Congress has given to us. Unfortunately, the result of that is they give you more to do.”

While the US Department of Energy controls long-term energy investment decisions, FERC’s four commissioners (a fifth seat is vacant) appear determined to ensure that wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean power get equal access to the grid.

The commissioners are also biased against coal and nuclear power on at least one key factor: cost.

Many in the power industry believe that renewable energy still costs too much. Not Wellinghoff, who says: “I see these distributed resources [solar, wind, natural-gas microturbines, and others] coming on right now as being generally less expensive.”

That might sound surprising. Yet, with coal and nuclear power plants costing billions of dollars – and raising environmental issues such as climate change and radioactive waste – others also see renewable power as the low-cost option.

Wellinghoff’s outspoken views have irritated some since his March selection as chairman.

Last month, for instance, he drew fire from nuclear-energy boosters in Congress after he characterized as “an anachronism” the idea of meeting future US power demand by building large new coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

“You don’t need fossil fuel or nuclear [plants] that run all the time,” Wellinghoff told reporters at a US Energy Association Forum last month. Then he added: “We may not need any, ever.”

That set off a salvo from Sen. Lind sey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a staunch nuclear-power advocate. “The public is ill-served when someone in such a prominent position suggests alternative-energy programs are developed and in such a state that we should abandon our plans to build more plants,” he said in a statement.

But to others, Wellinghoff is the epitome of what the US needs: a public servant zeroed in on energy security, the environment, efficiency, and keeping energy costs down.

“Wellinghoff has been a longtime supporter of efficiency and consumer interests,” says Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, an energy advocacy group. “I would call him a visionary. He’s not just content with the status quo.”

In Wellinghoff’s vision of the future, where the cost of carbon dioxide emissions is added to the price of coal-fired power plants and natural-gas turbines, it may be less expensive for consumers to set their appliances to avoid buying power at peak times. Or they may choose to buy power from a collection of microturbines, fuel cell, wind, solar, biomass, and ocean power systems.

“We’re going to see more distributed generation – and we’re already starting to see that happen,” Wellinghoff says. “Not only renewable generation like photovoltaic [panels] that people put on their homes and businesses, but also fossil-fuel systems like combined heat and power,” called cogeneration units.

To coordinate and harmonize this fluctuating phalanx of power sources, customers will need to know and be able to respond to the price of power, Wellinghoff says. They will also need a new generation of appliances that switch off automatically to balance power supply and demand peaks.

But there are huge challenges with a power grid that provides energy from a mix of wind, solar, and other renewable power.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid [along the East Coast], he says. “You can’t just move [wind and wave power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability – Florida to Maine.”

As the percentage of renewable power rises toward 20 to 25% of grid power from around 3% today, there must be a backup to fill gaps when intermittent winds stop blowing or the sun doesn’t shine.

In a decade or more from now, Wellinghoff, says millions of all-electric or plug-in electric-gas hybrid vehicles could plug into the grid and supply spurts of power to fill in for dipping wind and solar output.

“There are new technologies,” he says, “that in the next three to five years will advance the grid to a new level.”

Gesturing to a drawing board on the wall, he hops up from his chair, his hands flicking across a sketch of the eastern half of the US with power lines fanning out from the Plains states to the East Coast.

“This is another grid option that would take a lot of power that’s now constrained in the Midwest, that can be developed – wind energy there – and move it to all the load centers [cities] on the East Coast,” he says.

Similarly, lines could be built across the Rockies to connect wind power in Montana and Wyoming to the West Coast. Instead of building power lines from the Midwest to the East Coast, “a lot of people would say, ‘No, no, let’s look first look at the wind offshore,’ ” he says.

Whether it’s wind from the Plains or the ocean, the resulting variability will have an impact on grid reliability if action isn’t taken, Wellinghoff says.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid here,” he says, gesturing to the East Coast. “You can’t just move [power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability.”

Reliability of the grid remains paramount – Job No. 1 for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But if boosting renewable power to 25% by 2025 – the Obama administration’s goal – means spreading Internet-connected controllers across substations and transmission networks, then cybersecurity to protect them from increasing Internet-based threats is critical.

Yet a recent review by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation overseen by FERC found more than two-thirds of power generating companies denied they had any “critical assets” potentially vulnerable to cyberattack. Those denials concern Wellinghoff.

“We are asking the responding utilities to go back and reveal what are the number of critical assets and redetermine that for us,” he says. “We want to be sure that we have fully identify all the critical assets that need to be protected.”

It would be especially troubling if, as was recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, Russian and Chinese entities have hacked into the US power grid and left behind malware that could be activated at a later time to disable the grid.

But Wellinghoff says he has checked on the type of intrusion referred to in the article and denies successful grid hacks by foreign nations that have left dangerous malware behind.

While acknowledging that individuals overseas have tried to hack the grid frequently, he says, “I’m not aware of any successful hacks that have implanted into the grid any kinds of malware or other code that could later be activated.”

But others say there is a problem. In remarks at the University of Texas at Austin in April, Joel Brenner, the national counterintelligence executive, the nation’s most senior counterintelligence coordinator, indicated there are threats to the grid.

“We have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids,” he said in prepared remarks. “Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do.”

In an e-mailed statement, Wellinghoff’s press secretary, Mary O’Driscoll, says the chairman defers to senior intelligence officials on some questions concerning grid vulnerability to cyberattack: “The Commission isn’t in the intelligence gathering business and therefore can’t comment on that type of information.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 20, 2009

ferc_seal1Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), led by Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, filed this FERC Smart Grid Policy Statement introducing a proposed Smart Grid, interoperability standards with an interim period rate plan.  FERC has invited comments by May 1, 2009. 

FERC offered this summary:

This proposed policy statement and action plan provides guidance to inform the development of a smarter grid for the nation’s electric transmission system focusing on the development of key standards to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems. The Commission also proposes a rate policy for the interim period until interoperability standards are adopted. Smart grid investments that demonstrate system security and compliance with Commission-approved reliability standards, the ability to be upgraded, and other specified criteria will be eligible for timely rate recovery and other rate treatments. This rate policy will encourage development of smart grid systems.

This FERC policy statement explores aspects of the proposed smart grid and electricity transmission especially as it relates FERC’s assumed areas of jurisdiction.  Push back may come from overlapping agencies, states and local municipalities, suggesting FERC benefiting in creating fair, inclusive, environmentally-safe, smart grid energy policies based on a transparent rulemaking period to obtain best direction as well as understand ensuing issues, overlaps and disputes.  

As renewable energy policy is nascent, and as generated electricity comes from remote lands, FERC’s Smart Grid energy policies has relevance to every technologist, environmentalist, stakeholder and supporters of the renewable energy world.

You may also access the entire archived meeting FERC Webcast which includes the Smart Grid policy statement, or download the Smart Grid Preso & Q/A portion.

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Editor’s Note:  On September 21, 2009 FERC Commissioner Suedeen Kelly declined a nomination to serve a second term on the panel. Kelly, a Democratic commissioner nominated by President Obama, said she was leaving her post for the private sector.  A FERC spokeswoman said Kelly would remain in her seat until Congress adjourns later this year.

In her tenure, Kelly has overseen the development of commercial scale renewable energy, the expansion of bid-based regional auction markets for electricity, growth in natural gas pipelines and storage and the birth of the smart grid.

“It is time for me to move on and pursue opportunities to advance these objectives in the private sector,” Kelly said in a statement.

The Senate has still yet to confirm another FERC nominee, John Norris. If the Senate fails to confirm Norris and replace Kelly before it adjourns, it will have only three commissioners sitting: two Republican and one Democrat.

MendoCoastCurrent, March 20, 2009

President Barack Obama has designated Jon Wellinghoff as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a position he has held on an acting basis since January.

Wellinghoff is one of two Democrats on the five-member FERC commission.  Separately, the White House said Obama will nominate Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, the panel’s other Democrat, to a third term. Wellinghoff has been on the commission since 2006 and Kelly since 2003.

The Senate confirms commission members, but the president may name its chairman without Senate action.

Here’s the Obama Administration’s FERC Team:

comm_mem

Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Commissioner Suedeen G. Kelly, Commissioner Philip D. Moeller, Commissioner Marc Spitzer

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Cherry Creek News Staff, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – In a joint statement issued today Secretary of the Interior (DOI), Ken Salazar and Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Jon Wellinghoff announced that the two agencies have confirmed their intent to work together to facilitate the permitting of renewable energy in offshore waters.

“Our renewable energy is too important for bureaucratic turf battles to slow down our progress. I am proud that we have reached an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding our respective roles in approving offshore renewable energy projects. This agreement will help sweep aside red tape so that our country can capture the great power of wave, tidal, wind and solar power off our coasts,” Secretary Salazar said.

“FERC is pleased to be working with the Department of the Interior and Secretary Salazar on a procedure that will help get renewable energy projects off the drawing board and onto the Outer Continental Shelf,” Acting FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

Below is the joint Statement between DOI and FERC signed by Secretary Salazar and Acting Chairmain Wellinghoff:

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND THE ACTING CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES ON THE OUTER CONTINENTAL SHELF

The United States has significant renewable energy resources in offshore waters, including wind energy, solar energy, and wave and ocean current energy.

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Minerals Management Service, has the authority to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way on the outer continental shelf for the development of oil and gas resources. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide the Interior Department with parallel permitting authority with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from additional sources of energy on the outer continental shelf, including renewable energy sources.

The Interior Department’s responsibility for the permitting and development of renewable energy resources on the outer continental shelf is broad. In particular, the Department of the Interior has permitting and development authority over wind power projects that use offshore resources beyond state waters.

Interior’s authority does not diminish existing responsibilities that other agencies have with regard to the outer continental shelf. In that regard, under the Federal Power Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the statutory responsibility to oversee the development of hydropower resources in navigable waters of the United States. “Hydrokinetic” power potentially can be developed offshore through new technologies that seek to convert wave, tidal and ocean current energy to electricity. FERC will have the primary responsibility to manage the licensing of such projects in offshore waters pursuant to the Federal Power Act, using procedures developed for hydropower licenses, and with the active involvement of relevant federal land and resource agencies, including the Department of the Interior.

We have requested our staffs to prepare a short Memorandum of Understanding that sets forth these principles, and which describes the process by which permits and licenses related to renewable energy resources in offshore waters will be developed.

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