On Thursday, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff presided over his first open meeting since President Obama designated him Chairman. As part of his opening remarks, Chairman Wellinghoff thanked his fellow commissioners and FERC staff for their dedication and hard work.

In outlining his priorities, Chairman Wellinghoff stated that “I intend 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 the energy issues confronting our nation.” To meet these goals, Chairman Wellinghoff said the Commission will maintain its 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.”

To meet these responsibilities Chairman Wellinghoff called for action on three priority issues:

  • Exploring how best to incorporate demand response and other demand resources into wholesale electric markets;
  • Enhancing transmission planning and market rules and operation to allow reliable integration of renewable energy resources; and
  • Pursuing continual improvements in operational and technical efficiency across all aspects of the industries the Commission regulates.

In his remarks, Chairman Wellinghoff identified technology innovation as a key factor in creating an efficient energy system that is capable of meeting consumers’ needs. As part of this discussion, Chairman Wellinghoff recognized the increasingly frequent entwinement of energy and environmental policy. He noted that climate change, renewable resources, energy efficiency, and developing a smart grid are now often drivers for energy policy.

As part of the Commission’s efforts to address these issues, Chairman Wellinghoff announced the creation of the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, which is expected to be effective as of May 4, 2009. Deputy Director of the Office of Energy Market Regulation (“OEMR”) Jamie Simler will be moving over to head this new office as its first Director.

Additional staff changes at the Commission include the retirement of Shelton Cannon, who served as the Director of OEMR. Mike McLaughlin will become the new Director of OEMR and Anna Cochrane will become the new Deputy Director of OEMR.

Chairman Wellinghoff confirmed several additional changes, notably that Jim Pederson will be the new Commission Chief of Staff. Furthermore, David Morenoff will become Chairman Wellinghoff’s senior legal and policy advisor, and Mary Beth Tighe will become his senior technical and policy advisor.