Jon B. Wellinghoff is an American attorney who served as the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from 2009 to 2013. The FERC is a U.S. government agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. The FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines and licenses hydropower projects.
Wellinghoff's work in energy-related fields has included renewable integration, plug-in electric vehicles, and the modernization of the American electric grid. In November 2013, Wellinghoff stepped down from his post as the 13th FERC chairman.
Wellinghoff was born in Santa Monica, California, on May 30, 1949, and moved to Reno, Nevada, at the age of four. He attended the University of Nevada-Reno, earning a B.S. in mathematics in 1971. The following year he earned a master's degree in teaching mathematics from Howard University and stayed in Washington, D.C., to attend Antioch School of Law where he earned his J.D. in 1975.
Wellinghoff returned to Nevada where he would specialize in energy law for more than 30 years. In private practice, he focused exclusively on cases pertaining to renewable energy and energy efficiency, causes he continued to promote as FERC Chairman. He was the primary author of Nevada's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of two state RPS programs to receive an "A" rating from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Wellinghoff has also held a variety of positions in the public sector, providing legal counsel on energy issues to, among others, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, the Federal Trade Commission and the Nevada Public Utility Commission.
Consumer protection was another hallmark of Wellinghoff's career prior to joining FERC. In his hometown of Reno, he held the position of Deputy District Attorney in the Washoe County District Attorney's Consumer Fraud division. His work on behalf of consumers helped make him Nevada's first Consumer Advocate for customers of public utilities. In that role, he argued for the public in cases before FERC, the Nevada Supreme Court and what is now the Nevada Public Utility Commission.
In 2006, Wellinghoff was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate as one of the five commissioners at the FERC.
As commissioner, Wellinghoff was influential in moving FERC towards prioritizing the removal of barriers to integration of renewable energy into the electric grid. He has been an advocate of "demand response" and "smart grid" technologies that will facilitate coordination and communication between electricity consumers and providers, allowing consumers to have greater control over their energy usage and the associated costs.
Wellinghoff was an early proponent of improving energy infrastructure to accommodate future demands from automobiles powered primarily by electricity. He coined the phrase "Cashback Car" in a contribution to the Brookings Institution publication, "Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington?" In it, he envisioned a future where drivers not only save money by switching from gasoline but are paid by utilities for use of their batteries to provide and store electricity. Wellinghoff explained that while the necessary technology already exists, improvements to infrastructure will be needed to make the "Cashback Car" a reality.
In 2008, the Alliance to Save Energy honored Wellinghoff with its prestigious Charles Percy Award for Public Service. The non-profit group bestowed the award "in recognition of [his] decades of outstanding public service and his expertise and leadership on energy efficiency as the nation confronts the dual challenge of electricity supply security climate change."
During his time as commissioner, Wellinghoff also received the EnerNoc Thought Leadership Award at a summit on energy efficiency and the Award for Leadership in Demand Response from the U.S. Demand Response Coordinating Committee.