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Audrey Zibelman to step down as chairwoman of state PSC

Audrey Zibelman, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission,

Audrey Zibelman, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Red Room at the Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

Public Service Commission chairwoman Audrey Zibelman will step down from the state agency by the end of March, according to the Australian energy agency that on Monday announced her pending hire.

Zibelman will become chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator, the agency announced, citing her “extensive international experience in the public, private and not-for profit energy sectors.”

Zibelman’s departure had been rumored for months and comes just as the state has begun to enact many of the advanced energy initiatives she helped formulate in her dual role as PSC chair and CEO of the state Department of Public Service, the administrative arm of the PSC.

Before joining the PSC, Zibelman was chief executive of privately held Viridity Energy.

PSC spokesman James Denn confirmed Zibelman’s departure, saying it would have “no impact on the Commission’s ability to make regulatory decisions.”

State observers suggested Zibelman’s open-for-business approach to state energy issues brought innovation of the state’s energy grid into the next century, while potentially saddling ratepayers with some of its costs.

“The revolutionary work to advance the energy vision could be one of the major policy initiatives in New York energy history,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a watchdog group, referring to Reforming the Energy Vision, a state initiative that seeks to use diverse green-energy sources to replace traditional ones.

“On the flip side, the incredibly expensive bailout of aging upstate nuke plants could saddle New Yorkers with billions in rate hikes down the road,” Horner said of the Clean Energy Standard, which includes a subsidy to keep four upstate plants operating.

AEMO chairman Anthony Marxsen in a statement cited Zibelman’s “vast experience in creating and managing new wholesale electricity markets, and transforming existing energy markets and large power systems . . . ”

Unless she is replaced before March 20, Zibelman’s departure will leave the five-member PSC with just two commissioners, given that another commissioner, Patricia Acampora, is scheduled to leave in February. Another seat has remained vacant since the Rev. Floyd Flake declined it in 2015. The appointments are made by the governor, with Senate review.


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