Former FERC Chairman Wellinghoff heads to SolarCity

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016

The longest-serving chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking on a new role as chief policy officer of SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar provider.

Jon Wellinghoff will advise the California-based solar installer on federal and state policy and will oversee regulatory and legislative affairs, according to a press release. He will report directly to SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, cousin of Tesla co-founder Elon Musk, who is SolarCity’s chairman.

Before his Washington, D.C., career, Wellinghoff served as general counsel of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission between 1998 and 2000, and was the state’s first advocate for customers of public utilities.

SolarCity and its leaders have been outspoken against a December decision from the PUC that increased fees for rooftop solar customers and lowered the price they could get for selling electricity back to the grid. SolarCity suspended solar installations in Nevada as a result.

During his tenure as FERC chairman from 2009 to 2013, Wellinghoff pushed to integrate more wind and solar into the grid. In 2013, Wellinghoff became a partner at the law firm Stoel Rives. More recently, he praised a January Supreme Court decision backing FERC’s demand-response rule, before joining the board of kWantera, a Pittsburgh-based firm that helps companies make energy decisions (E&ENews PM, Feb. 10).

“SolarCity has done more than any other organization to advance rooftop solar in the United States, and I can think of no greater opportunity to continue my work to unlock the potential benefit of distributed solar generation for all consumers in this country,” Wellinghoff said.

SolarCity also announced the departure of Executive Vice President for Policy and Markets John Stanton, who is leaving the company to pursue “other opportunities.” Stanton formerly worked as counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association and U.S. EPA.