Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), made a bold statement on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, at the US Energy Association Forum. When questioned about new coal and nuclear generation, Wellinghoff responded, “we may not need any, ever.”

In making his assertion Chairman Wellinghoff argued that due to technological advancements in renewable and transmission, renewable energy is becoming increasingly cost-effective and progressively more competitive with conventional forms of energy. For instance, solar energy is now able to be stored for up to 15 hours, and regulatory commissions are allowing increasingly larger quantities of wind energy onto the grid. Given the current trends and assuming the implementation of a smart grid system, Wellinghoff said “ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do,” so you’ll look to wind first to meet energy demand.

With a smart grid capable of shaping energy supply to meet demand (and vice versa), Wellinghoff said, the concept of baseload power will become an anachronism. “People talk about, ‘Oh, we need baseload.’ It’s like people saying we need more computing power, we need mainframes. We don’t need mainframes, we have distributed computing.”

Wellinghoff cited what many others have duly noted: there is enormous potential for wind development in the Midwest, but it can only be fully realized if we implement wind friendly policies and keep wind in mind when rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

It is certainly a boon to the wind industry for the chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make such assertive statements, as the commission regulates the interstate transmission of electricity. Chairman Wellinghoff has an impressive track record behind him; he is an energy law specialist with more than 30 years of experience in the field and was the force behind Nevada’s Renewable Energy Standard, which was one of only two states to receive an “A” by the Union of Concerned Scientists for its design. His statements on the future of wind energy demonstrate the forward-thinking needed to stimulate growth and we are excited to see his vision become reality.