Binz There, Done That? Obama FERC Nominee Likely to Stay The Course on Renewables, But Changes in Regulatory Policy May Be In the Offing
On June 27, President Obama nominated Ron Binz to replace Jon Wellinghoff as Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC"). Mr. Binz's track record as Chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission suggests that his priorities will be very similar to Chairman Wellinghoff's. That is, we can expect FERC will continue to pursue policies favoring the deployment and integration of renewable energy resources and the construction of high-voltage transmission facilities to support delivery of utility-scale renewables. Mr. Binz's more recent experience as an industry consultant suggests, in addition, that he may focus on the fundamentals of the regulatory system and how the regulatory system can be rationalized in the face of rapid technological change in the industry.
Mr. Binz is a long-time energy industry professional, but it is likely that the policies he advocated during his four-year tenure as Chairman of the Colorado PUC will dominate the political headlines during his nomination process. In that capacity, he helped broker a compromise with Xcel Energy, Inc. to shutter coal-fired generation and promoted action on climate change, renewable portfolio standards, and other policies designed to promote renewable energy and transition away from traditional fossil sources. Given the Obama Administration's recent focus on climate change, and its long-time emphasis on promoting renewable energy, it is not surprising to see a FERC nominee with these priorities.