Obama Picks Solar Energy Exec Bryson for Commerce Dept.

Filling a key role in his cabinet, as Commerce Department secretary, praising the 67-year-old for his "decades of business experience across a range of industries."

Bryson currently is chairman of ., a developer of solar power plants. He also is a cofounder and former attorney for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a onetime head of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

If the Senate confirms him, Bryson would replace Secretary Gary Locke, who Obama has nominated as U.S. ambassador to China.

A native New Yorker who spent most of his career in California after being educated at Stanford and Yale Law School, Bryson likely will become a major player of Obama's plans to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, to more than $3 trillion, as proclaimed in the Economic Report of the President to Congress.

But Bryson's background also lends itself to the president's goals for lean and renewable energy. After serving California-based Edison International from 1984 until --- including 17 years as CEO -- Bryson retired in 2008. As chairman of Oakland-based BrightSource, he now is a leader of a company that aims to use solar-thermal technology to generate capacity equal to 11 nuclear power plants.

In his time at Southern California-based utility Edison, Bryson helped manage the company through a 2000-2001 energy crisis that bankrupted rival Pacific Gas & Electric, which was part of San Francisco-based PG&E Corp. Edison was forced to sell most of its overseas assets after its debt rating declined in part due to the crisis.