Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is resigning his post after a four-year tenure marked by formative support for renewable energy, energy storage, demand response and smart grid technologies. He's speaking at GTM's U.S. Solar Market Insight event in San Diego next month. (Register here.)
Wellinghoff, Craig Cornelius of NRG Solar, and David Shuford of Dominion will be discussing "Tomorrow's Utility in a Distributed Generation World," as these industry thought leaders map out the future for U.S. utilities and how utility business models will shift the solar market.
It's worth hearing what regulatory bodies like FERC are thinking as they set the trajectory for the utilities in the coming distributed generation era. Here are some words from and about Wellinghoff over the last few years:
- "I oversee the biggest machine in the world,” he said, referring to the nationwide power grid, over which FERC has incomplete jurisdiction.
- Wellinghoff was a champion of FERC decisions that helped boost the market power and viability of technologies like demand response. FERC Order 745, put into effect in 2011, has helped boost demand response revenues by requiring that grid operators like PJM pay them prices more closely matched to the wholesale market prices that generators make, for example. FERC Order 755 has allowed fast-acting DR and energy storage assets to balance grid frequency alongside natural gas turbines and other generation resources.
- Wellinghoff made a presentation in 2012 that was notable for its vision of more rational energy-pricing markets and its practical graphics. "A Day in the Life of the Grid" revealed that the FERC commissioners get the smart grid and the necessity "to unleash the information and unleash the power" of the American electrical grid, as Wellinghoff put it. His presentation gave an hour-by-hour snapshot of wholesale utility pricing across the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) using diagrams based on Ventyx imaging software. (This is one of my favorite utility grid presentations -- and I've seen a few.)
- Wellinghoff joined The Energy Gang on a recent podcast to discuss managing the creative destruction caused by solar in power markets.
- “Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM. If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour. “That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years," he said. As GTM Research's MJ Shiao recently noted, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar -- repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.