For over 40 years, the Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON) has advocated for the electricity consumer. Although we represent the interests of large industrial electricity consumers, we also benefit smaller commercial and residential consumers by advancing the pro-consumer position generally. Since ELCON’s founding, there have been just four people who have led the organization as President and CEO—John Anderson, John Hughes, Devin Hartman, and now Travis Fisher, who took the helm in April 2020.
Who is the new guy?
Travis may be new to ELCON, but he’s been involved with energy policy for over 15 years as both a critic and a man in the arena.[i] Most recently, he served for two years at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) advising Chairman Kevin McIntyre and then Commissioner Bernard McNamee. He also worked on the Trump Presidential Transition Teams at FERC and the Department of Energy (DOE), ultimately joining the latter as a political appointee.
At the DOE, Fisher led the Department’s efforts on the Staff Report to the Secretary on Electricity Markets and Reliability, which “generated enough energetic reaction from across the industry, environmental, and political spectrums to power a small city.”[ii] The 187-page report and its more than 500 endnotes and footnotes offered a balanced, fact-based perspective to the debate over electricity policy and grid resilience. As Greentech Media said when the report was published, “This is not the highly politicized study that many had expected (or feared) …. Instead, it’s a fairly well-evidenced overview of electricity markets as they stand today, the causes of coal and nuclear retirements to date, and the issues surrounding reliability and resiliency moving forward.”[iii]
Before becoming involved in the Presidential Transition, Travis was an economist at the Institute for Energy Research for four years. Prior to that, he did his first stint at FERC for seven years in the Office of Energy Market Regulation. His formal education is in economics—he holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in economics from North Carolina State University.
What is ELCON up to?
The electric utility industry is undergoing rapid change, so Travis will have several critical issues on his plate as he represents industrial electricity consumers before FERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Congress.
First and foremost, Travis will lead the industrial consumer effort to ensure the ongoing reform of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) enhances competition and allows non-discriminatory access to markets. After all, ELCON was founded in 1976 specifically to engage with policymakers on the important issues that were later codified in PURPA in 1978. FERC’s fair implementation of PURPA is a top priority.
Wholesale electricity market design is also front and center. Aligning market design with consumer interests—namely striving to minimize the all-in cost of electricity while maintaining or enhancing grid reliability—is critically important to ELCON members. To that end, Fisher has joined the Advisory Committee of the Future Power Markets Forum, a project of Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities, and will represent consumer interests in the ongoing dialogue on the future of electricity markets. Again, keeping costs in check will be paramount.
A key aspect of controlling electricity costs is transmission policy. ELCON has been a leader in promoting transmission policy reform since the 1970s, and Travis will work to reduce inflated return on equity, to limit the use of unnecessary transmission incentives, and to ensure that new transmission projects bring more benefits to consumers than costs.
Beyond PURPA, market design, and transmission policy, issues such as Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) governance reform are important to ELCON members. It is vital that the voice of the consumer be heard in RTO stakeholder processes. Lastly, a cornerstone for ELCON has long been promoting NERC standards that take cost into account and minimize the burden of NERC compliance on large consumers. Fisher is excited to work with NERC to bring a greater focus on economic efficiency to reliability policy.
It’s a full plate, to be sure, but both Travis and ELCON have a long history of getting things done. Please reach out to Travis directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-302-9953 if you’re interested in working with ELCON on these or other important issues.