Profile: She looks out for NJ consumers, businesses in dealings with utilities

Director of Rate Counsel Stefanie Brand represents those who otherwise would be without representation

Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel
Who she is: Stefanie Brand

What she does: Director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel

Why she counts: The agency represents the interests of businesses and consumers in utility cases involving gas, electric, water/sewer, cable TV, and telecommunications that come before the state Board of Public Utilities. Her office is also instrumental in shaping policies emerging from the executive branch and the Legislature, as well issues decided by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and PJM Interconnection, the operator of the nation’s largest power grid.

Age: 54

Where she lives: Lambertville

Education and former jobs: Graduate of Barnard College; received her law degree from Columbia University. Served as a clerk to former Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Gary Stein. Worked in private practice for five years, mostly doing environmental litigation, before joining the Division of Law in the state attorney general’s office, eventually rising to assistant attorney general. Appointed by former Gov. Jon Corzine in 2007 as director of the Division of Rate Counsel.

Why she likes working in the public sector: “To me, it is very rewarding and you get to deal with policy issues. It is not easy being in this job because someone is always mad at you. Still, I feel I’m representing people who otherwise would not be represented. That is a very gratifying feeling.’’

Why ratepayers might like her: Her office brought a filing against the state’s second-largest electric utility — Jersey Central Power & Light — alleging the company was earning more than what regulators had approved. While the case is still undecided, an administrative law court judge ruled last month that the utility should collect $107 million less from its 1 million customers. The BPU will decide the the case sometime this spring.

Her biggest frustration: “We are a very small band of merry warriors and we are up against some of the biggest companies in the state,’’ Brand said, noting that it is difficult to match those companies’ resources. “It’s very important to me we produce the same quality of work. It’s a real tribute to my staff (we do).’’

Her biggest challenge: “Making sure ratepayers’ interests are taken into account all the time,’’ she said. In doing so, she has irked some clean-energy advocates by opposing new subsidies to promote emerging technologies as well as energy efficiency by adding new surcharges to utility bills.

“There is a need for society to pick up certain costs — such as making sure people can afford to pay their bills. But when you start subsidizing people who are making a profit, that’s where it becomes unfair.

Brand has irked advocates solar developers by repeatedly saying the subsidies given to the sector to promote the technology should be winding down. “You really want to provide subsidies where they are serving a larger public purpose,’’ she said.

What you didn’t know about her: Brand is a long-suffering Mets fan. Both her mother and father were diehard Brooklyn Dodger fans who transferred their allegiance after “their” team moved west to the New York-based National League franchise when it got started in 1962. Her late brother was also a big Mets fan and the author of very popular blog on the team and two books about being a fan of the franchise.

How she relaxes: Likes to travel and spend time at a home she owns on Long Beach Island. She also dabbles in painting, particularly watercolors.

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