Stefanie Brand is staying put as director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, a post she has held since 2007.
The reappointment retains an experienced and knowledgeable litigator for the agency that represents millions of consumers and thousands of business on issues dealing with regulated companies supplying electricity, gas, water, and other services.
With the state Board of Public Utilities facing decisions on pending and future rate cases involving billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements, the division faces big challenges in keeping costs stable for ratepayers.
As director, Brand most recently was the most outspoken advocate for consumers in opposing efforts by Public Service Enterprise Group to secure up to $300 million a year in subsidies from electric customers throughout the state to shore up its nuclear plants in South Jersey. The bill to allow subsidies died in the lame-duck session that ended earlier this month, but is expected to resurface early this year.
Brand also questioned the need and cost of major gas pipelines that have been proposed in New Jersey, a stance that was welcomed by local communities who have mounted stiff opposition to the projects.
The next few months are shaping up to be a turbulent time in the energy marketplace. Besides determining the role of nuclear power over the next few decades, the Murphy administration wants to have 100 percent of the state’s electricity produced by clean energy by 2050.
That platform relies on expanded dependence on solar energy as well as developing huge offshore wind farms along the Jersey coast. Both are expected to require significant subsidies from ratepayers in a state already saddled with high energy bills.
But consumer, business and environmental advocates all are pleased by Brand’s reappointment.
“Stefanie and her team have tirelessly and effectively represented New Jersey utility’s customer for many years and have played a critical role in saving us billions of dollars on our utility bills while ensuring reliable service,” said Ev Liebman, associate director of AARP New Jersey.
Steven Goldenberg, an attorney who represents large energy users on matters before the BPU, agreed. “In her years as Rate Counsel, Stefanie has truly established herself as a champion and voice of ratepayers where it counts most — in the trenches,” he said.
Brand, a Lambertville resident, was an assistant attorney general in charge of litigation in the Division of Law within the Department of Law and Public Safety, before becoming rate counsel director.