Sources: Official who led DOE grid study to join FERC

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, April 2, 2018

The Department of Energy political appointee who oversaw a high-profile grid study is heading to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to multiple sources familiar with the move.

Travis Fisher, who left his DOE post in recent weeks, is expected to serve as an adviser in FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre’s office, sources said, while cautioning that his role could change.

Fisher is expected to report to Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese, who was appointed to the commission last summer by Republican Commissioner Neil Chatterjee (Energywire, Dec. 13, 2017).

Fisher’s tenure as a DOE political appointee was dominated by Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s hot-button proposal to boost struggling coal and nuclear units.

The DOE secretary tasked Fisher, a former FERC economist, with overseeing a staff report that ultimately singled out natural gas as the leading driver of coal plant closures this decade.

The DOE report was quickly followed by a request from Perry for FERC to boost financially struggling fossil and nuclear units. The commission unanimously rejected that request, opting instead to gather information from grid operators on resilience of the bulk power system.

Fisher’s former colleagues have said that the free-market advocate’s departure from DOE partially stems from the agency’s request to prop up struggling coal and nuclear plants (Greenwire, Feb. 22).

Before joining President Trump’s transition effort at DOE last year, Fisher worked for conservative nonprofit the Institute for Energy Research. Fisher’s jump to the public sector was facilitated by IER President Tom Pyle, who led the DOE transition.

Prior to working for IER, Fisher worked as an economist at FERC for seven years, from 2006 to 2013. At FERC, he analyzed electric tariff proceedings under the Federal Power Act, with a focus on Arkansas, Mississippi and East Texas, according to his LinkedIn bio.

He also developed policy positions on issues in electricity transmission and interconnection and led analysts, attorneys and engineers in drafting commission orders, his biography says.

When asked about the appointment, a spokeswoman for FERC said the agency does not comment on personnel matters.