Katie Dykes, a key voice on energy policy as a deputy commissioner at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, was nominated Thursday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to serve as a commissioner of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
“Katie has dedicated years toward providing strategic direction to Connecticut’s energy policy, and in particular her knowledge of the needs of Connecticut’s energy consumers and utility companies made her a natural fit for this position,” Malloy said.
If confirmed by the legislature, she will succeed Arthur H. House, who recently was picked to oversee cybersecurity for the state.
Dykes, 39, of West Hartford would be one of three PURA regulators, presumably taking responsibility for the authority’s energy portfolio. The authority regulates electricity, natural gas, water and telecommunication companies and is the franchising authority for the state’s cable television companies.
House, 74, and the Malloy administration had disagreed at times over implementation of a reorganization that reduced the authority’s staff from 150 to 60 and placed it within an expanded Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in 2011. The governor said those disagreements played no role in House’s departure.
But Dykes is expected to better coordinate the strategic and regulator sides of energy policy in a state that has some of the highest electricity costs in the United States. She leaves DEEP as it is updating its comprehensive energy strategy.
“I’ll be shifting from writing policy and strategy documents to collaborating with two other commissioners and a really talented staff at PURA,” Dykes said.
Dykes already was based at PURA’s offices in New Britain.
Connecticut faces significant challenges regarding the pricing, generation and delivery of energy. The state this week gave up on plans for a regional natural gas pipeline after administrative rulings in New Hampshire and Massachusetts foreclosed ratepayers in those states contributing to a project to increase the supply of gas.
About half the region’s electric grid is powered by gas-fired plants, up from 25 percent. When the winter is severe, demand outstrips supply and causes price spikes.
“Rates doubled for folks during the polar vortex, or right after,” she said.
Coal-fired plants and the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass., are due to be retired in the coming years, further straining the system. Energy planners across New England are looking at adding power produced by hydro projects, liquid natural gas, other pipelines and clean energy, she said.
“The problem is too big for one state to address on its own,” she said.
Dykes was recruited from Washington to Connecticut by Daniel C. Esty, the first commissioner of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection when its mission expanded from environmental protection to energy policy. Dykes is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, where Esty had been one of her professors.
She previously served with the White House Council on Environmental Quality as deputy general counsel and with the U.S. Department of Energy as a legal advisor to the general counsel.
Esty left DEEP in January 2014 to return to Yale after a three-year leave of absence.