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FERC’s Wellinghoff Tells Platts Energy Podium Stimulus Bill is ‘Seed Money’ at Best for US Power Updates

February 12, 2009

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire/ — The money that Congress has included in the economic stimulus bill aimed at expanding the US electric transmission grid will be just the start of what will be a costly effort to improve reliability and deliver renewable power to consumers from remote locations, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told the Platts Energy Podium on Thursday.

The stimulus bill funding would be “the seed money,” Wellinghoff said. “But it really isn’t [enough] money to make huge advances in the overall backbone grid that we’re talking about to integrate substantial amounts of wind.”

While details of the House-Senate stimulus bill compromise are still unclear, the measure could provide $10 billion or more to transmission upgrades. Wellinghoff said backbone transmission projects that would move renewable generation from remote locations to population centers would cost more than $200 billion. “And I think we’ll see that money coming from the private sector,” based on proposals already submitted to the agency.

Wellinghoff went on to tell the podium audience that he would push Congress to strengthen federal authority to site interstate high-voltage electric transmission lines to carry wind power to metropolitan areas.

In his first press event since being tapped by President Obama on January 23 to head up the commission, Wellinghoff said he expects FERC to be heavily involved in formulation of either a comprehensive energy bill or a series of bills meant to address obstacles to increasing renewable wind, solar and geothermal energy, and other matters that fall within FERC’s purview.

Wellinghoff said he recently met with top Senate Democrats, and he expects strong collaboration with Capitol Hill as Congress drafts legislation. “We’ll become involved in all those matters,” he said. “FERC has a very critical role to play given the authorities we’ve been given in the 2005 and 2007 acts and our capabilities with respect to policy and implementation of energy infrastructure.”

The last two major energy bills to come out of Congress significantly bolstered FERC’s policymaking authority to help jumpstart transmission tie-ins to renewable energy, smart grid technology and demand response, Wellinghoff noted.

Sponsored by Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Platts Energy Podium provides an ongoing forum for prominent newsmakers and the press to address important energy and environmental issues. A recording of the Jon Wellinghoff session is available via podcast at http://www.platts.com/energypodium/index.xml.

For more information on electricity or other energy information visit Platts online at http://www.platts.com/.

About Platts: Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), is a leading global provider of energy and commodities information. With a century of business experience, Platts serves customers across more than 150 countries. An independent provider, Platts serves the oil, natural gas, electricity, emissions, nuclear power, coal, petrochemical, shipping, and metals markets from 17 offices worldwide. Platts’ real-time news, pricing, analytical services and conferences help markets operate with transparency and efficiency. Traders, risk managers, analysts, and industry leaders depend upon Platts to help them make better trading and investment decisions. Additional information is available at http://www.platts.com.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies:

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor’s, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2008 were $6.4 billion. Additional information is available at www.mcgraw-hill.com.

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