Former FERC chair Jon Wellinghoff no longer at SolarCity
- SolarCity's chief policy officer Jon Wellinghoff left the company last week, according to media reports, months after Tesla completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of the solar company.
- The reasons why Wellinghoff left are unclear, and his LinkedIn page says he works at Policy/DER Consulting, a firm assisting emerging energy tech companies navigate complex policy barriers. E&E News reports he started the firm and Tesla is one of his clients.
- Wellinghoff was chair of the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission from 2009 to 2013 and served as SolarCity's policy chief for a little more than a year.
It's unclear why Wellinghoff left SolarCity, but his new consulting firm can count Tesla, SolarCity's new parent company, as a client, according to E&E News.
Wellinghoff came on board the leading residential solar company following a controversial policy decision reducing compensation to rooftop solar users in Nevada. At the time, Wellinghoff was key to helping the solar company navigate tense relationships between regulators, utilities and DER stakeholders without the contention that marked earlier proceedings.
Part of those duties included addressing short-term solutions in Nevada for rooftop solar compensation via a public tool. The tool aimed to quantify distributed generation and test the impact of net metering—a common policy scheme compensating rooftop solar for excess energy sent to the grid at the retail rate—on the state's system.
“I think ultimately the basic and overarching conclusion will stand. If you look at all the benefits, eventually you will determine that there is a net benefit to all ratepayers in Nevada to installing rooftop solar," he said in an interview with Utility Dive last year. "We’re all at the table already looking at the same tool and the same assumptions. Ultimately, we all have the same game pieces to play with."
SolarCity's hiring of Wellinghoff signaled the start of a more collaborative approach to advocacy from the nation's leading solar installers. Soon after, rival installer Sunrun hired former Maryland regulator Anne Hoskins, and the companies soon softened their position on solar incentives, breaking away from the long-standing “net metering or bust” attitude.
During Wellinghoff's tenure, however, Tesla made a bid for SolarCity, following negative financial reports for the embattled solar company. During that time, SolarCity also announced a "solar roof" offering incumbent upon the deal's approval, which came in November.
Musk said the deal would insulate SolarCity from major changes in state solar policies ostensibly posing a threat to the company's value proposition. SolarCity's CEO Lyndon Rive now heads Tesla's battery division, though his LinkedIn page still lists him as CEO at the solar company.
Wellinghoff's role in the merged companies was less clear, as are the circumstances of his departure.
"It makes sense that Tesla is integrating its respective legislative and policy teams with SolarCity," Greentech's Eric Wesoff noted. "Letting go of a skilled ex-FERC commissioner appears to make less sense."
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