President Barack Obama has put the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) squarely in the hands of Jon Wellinghoff, formally designating him chair of the agency on Friday. The president also separately reappointed Suedeen Kelly to her third term as commissioner, though her role will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Both are Democrats.

Wellinghoff had been serving as acting chair of the agency since January, after three years of service as a commissioner. Kelly has been a member of the commission since November 2003. Under law, three of the agency’s five commissioners represent the party of the president, while two are representatives of the minority party. With former FERC Chair Joseph T. Kelliher having resigned, and with two Republicans—Commissioner Philip D. Moeller and Commissioner Marc Spitzer—in mid-term, a Democratic seat at the commission remains open.

According to his bio, since becoming a FERC commissioner in 2006, Wellinghoff has been active in regulations governing wholesale electric markets to renewable resources; providing a platform for the participation of demand response and other distributed resources, including energy efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, in wholesale electric markets; and promoting greater efficiency in the nation’s energy infrastructure through the institution of advanced technologies and system integration. He was also instrumental in creating FERC’s Energy Innovations Sector (EIS), which is responsible for investigating and promoting new efficient technologies and practices in the energy sectors under FERC’s jurisdiction.

Wellinghoff is currently a cochair of the Demand Response Collaborative, launched jointly by FERC and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), and is a member of NARUC’s Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Institute for Electric Efficiency and served as an advisor to the Defense Science Board’s Energy Policy Task Force. Wellinghoff also advises the Energy Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council on China-U.S. energy policy matters.

Before joining FERC, Wellinghoff—who holds a juris doctorate and a master of arts in mathematics—was in private practice related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and distributed generation. He has represented an array of clients from federal agencies, renewable developers, and large consumers of power to energy-efficient product manufacturers and clean energy advocacy organizations.

He was also the primary author of the Nevada Renewable Portfolio Standard Act, and he worked with clients to develop renewable portfolio standards in six other states. Wellinghoff is considered an expert on the state renewable portfolio process and has lectured extensively on the subject in numerous forums, including the Vermont Law School, his biography says.

A FERC chair—the chief executive of the agency—directs management of its staff of 1,300 and its $260 million budget toward pursuit of the independent regulatory agency’s five core missions: economic regulation, energy infrastructure, safety, reliability, and enforcement.

Sources: FERC, White House, POWERnews