The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today that he’s stepping down because he has been there “a long time” and has managed to push through major reforms in grid planning and oversight of the energy markets. “I’ve been there seven years, which is a long time for a FERC commissioner,” Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said during an interview with C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” “I think it’s time to move on, look for other opportunities and sort of turn it over to the next group.”
A former Nevada consumer advocate, Wellinghoff came to FERC to fill a vacant seat in 2006 with the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He was reconfirmed in 2008 for a full five-year term as a commissioner, and Obama tapped him in March 2009 to become chairman — a step that didn’t require Senate confirmation. His current term expires June 30. It remains unclear whether Obama will tap a sitting Democratic FERC commissioner — Cheryl LaFleur or John Norris — to take the commission gavel or whether he will pick an outsider.
Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy utility said Wednesday that it will buy Nevada electric and natural gas company NV Energy for $5.6 billion as it expands its footprint in the energy sector. MidAmerican has been aggressively investing in renewable energy projects in recent years, and the companies expect that MidAmerican’s experience will help NV Energy develop renewable projects in Nevada, which has vast solar, wind and geothermal resources.
The Obama administration announced today it has granted final approval of the Alta East Wind Project in Southern California that includes a first-ever authorization allowing the project proponent to injure or kill an endangered condor during the 30-year life of the project. The Bureau of Land Management’s announcement that it has approved a record of decision (ROD) and plans to issue a right of way grant authorizing the 153-megawatt project touched off a wave of concern among environmental groups, who fear that authorizing the “take” of a California condor could set a dangerous precedent.
A House Republican has updated his recurring energy bill this year to include a phaseout of a key renewable energy tax credit, marking the first inclusion in formal legislation of an idea the wind industry floated last year. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) introduces his “no more excuses” energy bill every Congress, outlining a lengthy wish list of policies for oil, natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy, including calls to allow expanded oil drilling on federal lands and waters and to extend targeted renewable electricity and alternative fuel tax credits.
Grant Schmitz can’t remember exactly what triggered his interest in engineering. But it might have been family vacations to Colorado as a child. Schmitz, now 24, can remember traveling there from his home in Audubon, Iowa, in the late 1990s and walking over the Royal Gorge Bridge. He was fascinated with how one of the world’s highest suspension bridges, at more than 950 feet above ground, could safely span the gorge.
The California condor’s slow 20-year climb back from the brink of extinction has long been a fragile not-quite-success story in the conservation world. So when the news came on Friday that developers of a wind-energy project near the Mojave Desert would not face criminal charges if the blades killed a single condor, environmental groups expressed grave concern.
Groups are pushing back against proposed legislation in Colorado that would eliminate a renewable energy incentive. The incentive change is a response, in part, to a pending federal lawsuit filed in 2011 that questions its constitutionality.
The U.S. wind energy sector could add as much as 20,000 megawatts of new generation between 2012 and 2016 as developers take advantage of new Treasury Department rules that make new wind farms eligible for federal tax benefits through the end of 2013. The projections, released yesterday by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, account for January’s extension of the production tax credit for wind power and subsequent guidance from the Internal Revenue Service giving clear direction to developers on how a project must qualify for the PTC.
“The way I look at it is that this natural gas boom is a boon,” Moniz said during a town hall session yesterday that was posted in a video on his Facebook page. “The key is that buying time is not very useful if you don’t use the time,” he said. “It means pushing hard on those other technologies, on the renewable technologies. This is the time to get those ready for the marketplace on a big scale. So, this is the decade, I believe the crucial decade, for us to accomplish that,” Moniz said.