Last week, we sat down with Katelyn Bunning, Dependable Power First Kentucky’s Executive Director, to hear about her background and perspective on the state of our grid:

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background and your ties to Kentucky?

A:  I was born and raised in Louisville.  Both of my parents grew up in central Kentucky – but my family has ties throughout the state, which goes back several generations.  After college, I moved to Washington, DC to work for Senator McConnell, which is where I met and married my husband, Eric Bunning, who is originally from Lexington and was working for Congressman Andy Barr at the time. We both had rewarding experiences in DC, but we knew we wanted to return to our Kentucky routes and raise our family here.  We moved to Lexington last year, where we now live with our two young children, Alice and James. 

Q: What took you to Washington, DC?

A: From a young age I was interested in politics and public service. In 2010, I started my professional career as a staff assistant within Senator Mitch McConnell’s office. Over time, I gradually took on greater responsibilities until I became his legislative director in 2017, a job I proudly held for four years.

Q: What brought you back to Kentucky?

A: Even when I lived in Washington, D.C., I’ve always considered Kentucky to be home. Eric and I both have a deep affinity for Kentucky, and we knew we wanted to raise our children here, where we could be close to family.  Both of my parents are life-long Kentuckians.  My father, Jimmy Dan Conner, played basketball for the University of Kentucky and has built a successful career in the insurance industry.  My mother, Rhonda Jo, is an accomplished singer and artist and has always been involved in our community – most recently serving on the board of the Kentucky Derby Museum.  . Eric’s paternal grandfather was the late Senator Jim Bunning, who had a long career in Kentucky politics, and my mother-in-law comes from a family that has been involved in the horse racing industry for generations. With such a long family history here, it was a priority for us to raise our kids in Kentucky, so we moved back home in June of last year.

Q: What initially sparked your interest in energy policy?

A: My first entry into the energy policy space was when I took over the energy policy portfolio for Senator McConnell in 2015 in the midst of battles against a parade of terrible regulations that threatened to undermine our grid’s long-term stability. Kentucky has an abundance of natural resources, such as coal, which has allowed the state to have a long history of providing low energy prices for its consumers. Historically, the coal industry has also always been a very important source of good-paying jobs for generations of Kentuckians.   I became passionate about fighting policies and regulations that threatened the livelihood of Kentuckians. 

Q: Why did you decide to serve as the executive director of Dependable Power First Kentucky?

A:  As a Kentuckian, I know just how important reliable and affordable electricity is to our economy and way of life. It’s frustrating when partisan policies are put in place to force us towards an energy transition we aren’t prepared for at the expense of the every day consumer.  I remain passionate about supporting an energy future that is reliable, affordable, and feasible. It’s time to have a discussion as a nation about how we continue pursuing energy advancements in responsible manner rather than allowing policy makers to gamble with our future by pursuing unattainable and arbitrary benchmarks.  Supporting Dependable Power First Kentucky is a way for me to continue working on an issue that I care deeply about.

Q: What are the biggest threats facing Kentucky’s energy grid?

A: There are several significant challenges, but the one I am most concerned about is the premature retirement of baseload power plants that generate reliable and affordable energy before we can ensure there is a reliable and affordable way to make up for the loss of that generation. Compounding federal regulations have made it economically unfeasible for many of these plants to stay open. In the coming years, it is likely that we won’t have enough power generation to keep the lights on during storms. We saw this firsthand a year ago in Kentucky with Winter Storm Elliott, and the problem appears to be getting worse. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s latest Long-Term Reliability Assessment found that a growing portion of our state is now at ‘high risk’ of electricity shortfalls during normal peak conditions, putting Kentuckians’ lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.

Q: How can we protect and improve Kentucky’s grid reliability?

A: Thankfully, Kentucky is not California.  For the most part, our policymakers here in the state understand and appreciate the importance of a reliable grid.  That said, we are not immune to risk… (add something from the recent report about threats to KY specifically).  The first step we are focused on at Dependable Power First is increasing awareness of the root causes of our current predicament. Winter Storm Elliott was a wake-up call for many people that something isn’t quite right, but energy policy can be complex, and so it’s easy to ignore until it’s too late. As an organization, one of our core objectives is to help make information about energy policy and our grid more accessible so that people are better informed.

After that, the most important thing is that we heed the warnings and advice of our energy experts. For years, scientists, grid operators, and the federal commission responsible for maintaining our power grid have warned that we are on the verge of a reliability crisis of our own making. We can’t continue to ignore what they are telling us.

Q: How can I get involved?

A: If you are an individual, we invite you to follow us on social media and to share your concerns – as well as the facts – with friends, loved ones, and your elected officials. Grid reliability is an issue that affects all of us, and solutions need to reflect the input and perspective of all Kentuckians.

If you are part of a company or organization that is impacted by energy policy and grid reliability, we encourage you to learn more about our coalition and consider joining our effort. Together, we can secure a reliable and affordable energy future for all Kentuckians.

In all cases, we invite you to contact us by emailing [email protected].

Similar Posts