Former FERC Chair establishes grid modernization and railroad electrification intiative

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Jim Hoecker, former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has joined forces with the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to help establish the Railroad Electrification Council (REC). 

Jim Hoecker

The aim of the REC is to promote new electrical applications, technologies, and public policies that can be adopted by or for Class 1 (major freight) and Class 2 (short line) railways, which currently rely heavily on fossil fuels.   

 “I am continuing my work on grid modernization and federal energy policy, this time with respect to another network industry — railroad systems,” explained Hoecker, who also founded WIRES, an electric transmission advocacy group. 

“These are two potentially synchronous networks and we should not underestimate how much railroads can contribute to strengthening the grid, improving the environment, and addressing climate change. Moreover, railroad operations represent potential electricity load growth. NEMA will be a great partner in making the case for changes that will benefit our economy,” he added.

“The coming electrification of many transportation sectors in North America promises many economic and environmental benefits. Railroads play an important role in this development, and, like the electric power industry and other infrastructure networks, railroads will be affected by changing markets and public policies,” said NEMA President and CEO Kevin Cosgriff. “NEMA will explore how those potential changes can impact the manufacture of electrical products and systems.”

The REC is open to NEMA Members and non-member stakeholders and organizations that share the goals of rail electrification and grid modernization, including greater economic and operational efficiency, employment opportunities, lower emissions and operating costs, and greater fuel diversity across the electric power grid.

Electrification also implicates new uses for railroad assets, especially their desirable rights-of-way and storage potential, to help facilitate development of renewable resources, said the REC in a press release. 

Related: Transforming the Transportation Industry with Renewable Energy

Among the initial tasks of the REC is to determine how to help promote rail electrification in cooperation with other stakeholders, including financial interests, federal and state regulators, and transmission developers, that have not necessarily considered railroads as part of today’s energy policy conversation.

“I encourage railroad companies, renewable energy developers, public utilities and other transmission providers, and manufacturing and technology firms to join the REC in planning and preparing for the coming electrification of the transportation sector,” said NEMA Industry Director of Transportation Systems, Steve Griffith.

Inquiries from non-NEMA companies and organizations regarding how to participate in the REC may be directed to Dr. Hoecker or Mr. Griffith (

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Jennifer Runyon is a Content Director at Clarion Energy, writing, editing and posting content on POWERGRID International and planning conference sessions for DISTRIBUTECH's live and virtual events. She as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH International. You can reach her at

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