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FERC and the Electric Car: An Interview with Jon Wellinghoff

By Jon T. Brock, President Desert Sky Group, LLC

Reprinted with permission from Smart Grid Road Show, November 16, 2010


Recently I attended the Smart Grid Road Show in Portland, Oregon and got a few minutes of Jon Wellinghoff’s time for a brief interview.  Named as Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by President Barack Obama in March 2009, Wellinghoff was in Portland to give the keynote address at the Smart Grid Road Show, an event focused exclusively on Grid Transformation and Smart Grid initiatives.  The event’s focus and FERC’s priorities seemed to align very well as FERC has stated its top initiatives to be the Smart Grid, Demand Response, and Integration of Renewables.

After spending some time on the status of current Notice of Public Rulemakings (NOPRs) on demand response/transmission and NIST’s progress on standards, I asked about electric vehicles and the role they may play in a smart grid world.  More specifically, I asked how customers of electric cars in the future would settle an electric transaction that is occurring between a utility/ISO-RTO and their vehicle.

Wellinghoff informed me that settling is occurring now at PJM in a small pilot.  Apparently there are 7 electric cars at the University of Delaware. Settlement is occurring between PJM and the owners of those cars.  For the purpose of the experiment those 7 cars have been aggregated with a 1 megawatt battery (since settlement at PJM has to be done in 1 megawatt increments) and then PJM pays the group.  Wellinghoff expressed a desire to see it done more dis-aggregated but acknowledged that would depend on PJM’s ability to interact with service providers below the 1 megawatt level.  For purposes of the discussion the Chairman explained that it takes about 100 cars to get to 1 megawatt.  PJM is looking at the cars as tiny resources in order to help with regulation service in its jurisdiction. 


Demonstration of Regulation Services – Source: FERC


The cars have a unique address that can be recognized by PJM and PJM can tell if they are on or off so the cars do not necessarily have to be in the same place to be aggregated.  They can be located anywhere in the PJM footprint to be “virtually” aggregated.  They have the same impact on regulation services as long as they are in the same interconnect.  PJM is its own balancing authority and each balancing authority has to maintain its own frequency at 60 hertz.  The larger the balancing authority the more dispersed the resources can be.  Generators have historically provided the regulation services but in much larger volumes. 


Regulation Service While Charging – Source: FERC


A couple of things came to mind during our conversation.  If the PJM experiment holds and the industry will settle transactions between ISO-RTOs and electric car consumers for regulation services, will there be “roaming charges” when travelling outside an ISO-RTO footprint or just no regulation service?  Are the ISO-RTOs now becoming, for lack of a better term, the “network” area?  And while this experiment focused on regulation service in a control area, where are the specific utilities and who is responsible for the billing of the services? 

There are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the electric car but we can be assured of one thing.  The smart grid will change the way we live.  It is an exciting time to be a part of an industry that is changing rapidly.  I would like to thank Chairman Jon Wellinghoff for taking some of his valuable time to discuss the smart grid and electric vehicles with me and for his continued leadership at FERC.             


Jon Brock is President of utility and energy advisor Desert Sky Group, LLC.  He can be reached at

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