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Obama names Wellinghoff acting FERC chairman

President Obama named Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jan. 23.

Wellinghoff, a Nevada independent, replaces Joseph Kelliher, a Washington, D.C., Republican, who stepped down as chairman but remains on the commission. (HNN 1/8/09)

"I thank President Obama for the opportunity to lead FERC at a time when our nation faces the challenge of providing consumers with access to clean renewable energy and ensuring that our nation can deliver that energy in the most efficient, smart, and technologically sophisticated manner possible," Wellinghoff said.

Kelliher congratulated Wellinghoff on the interim appointment.

"Jon has the intelligence, experience, judgment, and independence to lead FERC as the agency discharges its historic responsibilities and confronts new challenges," Kelliher said.

Wellinghoff challenged the hydro industry

In 2008, Wellinghoff challenged the U.S. hydro industry to develop at least 90,000 MW of new hydropower by 2030, calling projections of a possible 23,000 MW of new hydro by 2025 too conservative. (HNN 4/16/08) Addressing the National Hydropower Association's annual conference, Wellinghoff said the hydro industry has opportunities to increase efficiencies and requires the assistance of the federal government to advance new technology designs.

"Ninety-five thousand megawatts of new hydro by 2030 is a goal we can achieve and one we can be proud of when we succeed," Wellinghoff said at that time.

Wellinghoff told NHA that FERC is working to reduce regulatory barriers with policies such as its new licensing program for pilot hydrokinetic projects. He said hydrokinetic technologies will contribute substantially to the growth of new hydro and meeting capacity goals. He also said building pumped-storage projects will help meet power system needs.

New chairman is FERC's sole independent

FERC is composed of five members appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The president names the commission chairman. No more than three members may belong to the same political party.

Wellinghoff is the only independent on the commission. Kelliher, whose term as commissioner ends June 30, 2012, remains on the commission while looking for a new job. He is one of three Republicans on the panel, the others being Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona. The fifth commission member is Suedeen Kelly from New Mexico, the lone Democrat.

FERC commissioners meet monthly on agenda items selected by the chairman. The commission's next monthly meeting, scheduled while Kelliher was chairman, is set for Feb. 19.

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