Power Grid Texas: ERCOT has appointed a new CEO

Vegas’ first full working week begins Monday, October 3rd.

AUSTIN, Texas – A Columbus, Ohio-based natural gas and electric utility company has been named president and CEO of the Texas electric grid operator.

Pablo Vegas’ election to head the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, comes about a year and a half after a devastating winter storm in February 2021 left dozens dead and millions without power for days, costing the state and consumers billions.

Vegas’ selection was unanimously approved Tuesday by ERCOT’s board of directors and its regulator, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, whose members are appointed by the governor. He will take up his new position in October.

“In Pablo, we get the leadership we were looking for: extensive experience with regulated utilities, a proven track record of managing a system of diverse energy resources and, most importantly, an unwavering commitment to reliability,” said Paul Foster, Chief Executive Officer of ERCOT.

He will come on board with a lucrative compensation package. Vegas base salary is $990,000. He is also eligible for annual bonuses totaling $1.4 million.

Vegas will also receive $6.8 million in make-whole payments spread over the next six years.

He will receive a $248,500 lump sum payment this year.

“My quick reaction is that the salary does not differ from the salaries of CEOs of other power grids,” said Beth Garza, former independent grid monitor of ERCOT.

Garza told the WFAA that she sees the make-whole payments “as the price that had to be paid to get someone in the hot seat.”

“I don’t know about Mr. Vegas, but I wish him the best,” Garza said. “His biggest external task will be to win back the trust of regulators and politicians in the ERCOT organization. Internally, he needs to boost the morale of the organization and ensure it is performing at the highest level.”

Vegas will take the helm as ERCOT nears the end of the hottest or second hottest summer in Texas history.

“Consumers are suffering badly in this state with an average electricity price of 20 cents,” said Doug Lewin, an Austin-based grid expert. “I’m curious to see how Mr. Vegas (and the PUC and the Legislature) resolve both for reliability and affordability.”

Lewin told the WFAA that ERCOT and the PUC’s current approach has been “reliability at all costs”.

“Texas will not be an attractive location for business, and more Texans will not be able to pay their energy bills unless we solve the affordability crisis while we solve the reliability crisis,” said Lewin. “He has a tough job ahead of him; I don’t envy him even though he makes more than $2 million a year.”

Vegas is currently Executive Vice President at NiSource Utilities, a natural gas and electric utility company based in Columbus, Ohio. The company serves nearly 4 million customers in six states. He has been with the company since 2018.

He was previously an executive at American Electric Power and served as President and Chief Operating Officer of AEP for its Texas operations from 2008 to 2010.

“Pablo is the right leader at the right time to help us navigate the complex web we have (and) the dynamic mix of resources we have,” said Peter Lake, chair of the Public Utility Commission .

Vegas replaces Brad Jones, who took over as interim President and CEO of ERCOT in May 2021.

Former CEO and President Bill Magness was fired in March 2021 in the aftermath of the 2021 winter storm.

107 candidates applied for the position and 21 were interviewed.

ERCOT employs approximately 800 people and its network provides electricity to approximately 25 million Texans.

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/texas/texas-state-power-electric-pablo-vegas-grid-operator-ercot-has-named-a-new-ceo/287-16c1c824-37e1-43bf-8ce8-a64f68f2fb16 Power Grid Texas: ERCOT has appointed a new CEO

Laura Coffey

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