Profile: He’s a Self-Proclaimed ‘Policy Geek’ Who Advocates for Utilities
Run the numbers, and Andrew Hendry works with 15 utilities that provide service to some 8 million accounts
Who he is: Andrew Hendry, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Utilities Association, the trade group representing 15 utilities that provide water, electricity, gas, telecommunications, and other necessities to residents and businesses.
Family: Married with two children
What he does: Advocates for investor-owned utilities on regulatory and legislative issues involving the provision of service to 7 million residential and approximately 1 million nonresidential accounts across the state.
Why the utilities matter: Besides delivering service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the utilities are a crucial part of New Jersey’s economy. They collectively employ 28,000 people, invest more than $4 billion annually, and provide $837 million in revenue a year to state and local governments.
How he got there: A graduate of Rutgers University who also has a master’s in political science from the school, Hendry has been around state government for more than a decade. A former fiscal analyst for the Office of Legislative Services, he also served as executive director of the Senate Majority office under Senate President Steve Sweeney. He joined the association in the fall of 2012.
What he likes about his job: “As a policy issue, energy is where it is at. I’m a policy geek at heart, and I love tough complicated policy issues. It is so critical for our economy, and technology is changing our business very much.’’
Biggest challenges facing the industry: The traditional utility business model needs to adapt to the changes transforming the sector, such as the erosion of revenues caused by the growth of distributed generation -- smaller power plants where the energy is consumed locally; development of renewable energy like solar panels; and energy efficiency, which reduces how much electricity or gas is consumed. New Jersey utilities are taking steps to adjust to those changes, Hendry said.
“They’re smart enough to know they have to adapt their business model and be willing to look at the way they are compensated for services of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The world is changing and companies are adapting to it.’’
Is the state prepared to adjust policies to the same changes? “The current president (of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities) is conscious of the need to look at the current ratemaking model given all the changes going on. There is also a willingness to compensate utilities, like Public Service Electric & Gas for energy efficiency.’’ Hendry also mentioned the conservation-incentive programs approved for two of the gas utilities -- New Jersey Natural Gas and South Jersey Gas.
Maintaining reliability of the grid: The state needs to look at issues that are affecting the utilities’ fiscal health, Hendry said. “The problem is the costs of the electric grid don’t go away. If it’s not solved, then it’s shifted to the customer.”
Is the public willing to pay to improve the resiliency of the grid? “These are significant investments and customers recognize the need. If we don’t make these investments, the cost is just going to be greater down the road.’’
The same is true with the state’s water infrastructure, where the cost involves upgrading a system with some pipes more than a hundred years old, Hendry noted. He said a relatively new mechanism that lets water companies accelerate spending on infrastructure projects without having to go through a formal rate case ought to be extended to wastewater treatment systems.