January 10, 2023

UM Alum Becomes First Black Person to Lead Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

University of Montevallo alum Willie Phillips ’00 was named acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Joe Biden, becoming the first Black person to lead the commission.

Phillips was previously nominated by Biden as a commissioner to the FERC in September 2021. He officially joined FERC in December 2021 when he was appointed by Biden and Congress approved.

Willie Phillips speaks to representatives from the University of Montevallo.FERC is the U.S. federal agency that regulates the transmission and sale of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce to ensure that it’s safe, secure, reliable, economically efficient and reasonable. It also regulates the transportation of oil by pipeline in interstate commerce.

Phillips is an experienced regulatory attorney combining nearly 20 years of legal expertise as a utility regulator, in private practice and as in-house counsel. He has an extensive background in the areas of public utility regulation, bulk power system reliability and corporate governance.

University of Montevallo representatives pose for a group photo with Willie Phillips.

As the youngest chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, the Fairhope, Alabama, native proved in his more than three years in the position – 2018 to 2021 – to be an innovative leader in modernizing the energy grid, implementing the District’s aggressive clean energy and climate goals to protect its customers.

Prior to the DCPSC , Phillips served as assistant general counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a not-for-profit international regulatory authority charged with ensuring the security and reliability of the bulk power system in the District of Columbia. He also worked for two law firms, where he advised clients on regulatory compliance, litigation and policy matters.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from UM where he was SGA president and in 2021 served as the commencement speaker. He earned a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in 2005.

He’s been married to his wife, Gabrielle, for more than 14 years. They have two children, Peyton and Tripp.