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State adds utility regulator for LI office

Julia Bovey will become director of the Department

Julia Bovey will become director of the Department of Public Service office in Plainview, which was created as part of the 2013 LIPA reform act to provide oversight of LIPA's long-term contract with PSEG Long Island. Credit: DPS

The state Department of Public Service said Monday it named Julia Bovey, an energy executive with regulatory and industry experience, to head its new Long Island office. Her goal: getting Long Islanders cheap, clean energy, she said.

Bovey will become director of the DPS office in Plainview, which was created as part of the 2013 LIPA reform act to provide oversight of LIPA's long-term contract with PSEG Long Island. The office was funded with $5.5 million in the 2014-15 budget. The department has 21 employees, but expects to hire up to 39. Bovey reports to DPS chief executive Audrey Zibelman, who also is chairwoman of the Public Service Commission.

In an interview, Bovey, who starts work July 7, said her priority will be making sure Long Island customers have access to clean, low-cost power.

"Getting cheap, clean electricity has got to be the North Star of the operation," she said.

Bovey is vice president of federal affairs for First Wind, a wind-energy company based in Boston. She previously was director of the office of external affairs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and a media director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. She has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

When she worked at the regulatory commission, Bovey said she could look at real-time prices of electricity in markets across the country. "The discrepancy between Long Island and everywhere else was just staggering," she said.

Asked how she'd help reduce Long Island rates, which are currently the subject of a rate freeze, she said, "There's so much more baked into those high prices that we actually have a chance to take a crack at it."

The department will begin reviewing PSEG's proposal for 2016 rates beginning early next year.

A goal of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's LIPA reform act was a three-year rate freeze that began in 2013 and ends in December 2015. It applies only to the delivery charge portion of bills, which rarely increased. The power supply charge, meanwhile, has soared through the winter, raising the ire of many ratepayers. It fell 20 percent for June.

The DPS office handles customer complaints about LIPA and PSEG Long Island, scrutinizes operations and rate requests and makes sure the utilities' emergency response plan is adequate, among other tasks. It has "review and recommend" authority over LIPA and PSEG, but it does not have the authority to impose fines or sanctions, as the department does with all other investor-owned utilities statewide.

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