The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s power grid operator, picked an Ohio-based utility executive out of a pool of over 100 candidates to serve as its president and CEO on Tuesday.
Pablo Vegas was unanimously approved by ERCOT’s board and the Public Utility Commission of Texas to oversee the state power grid.
Vegas will take over for interim president and CEO Brad Jones, who himself adopted the position when then-president and CEO Bill Magness was fired in the aftermath of the February 2021 winter storm power grid failures.
“With Pablo, we are getting the leader we have been looking for: extensive experience with regulated utilities, a demonstrated record of managing a system of diverse energy resources, and most importantly an unwavering commitment to reliability,” stated ERCOT board chair Paul Foster.
Vegas has worked in the energy sector for over a decade, serving as executive vice president at NiSource Utilities since 2018. Before that, he was the chief operating officer at American Electric Power from 2008 to 2010.
For his role as Texas’ new top electrical operator, Vegas will receive a lucrative compensation package. Besides $6.8 million in “make-whole payments” spread across six years and a $248,500 lump sum payment this year, ERCOT’s new top executive will receive a base salary of $990,000. He will also be eligible for annual incentive payments totaling $1.4 million.
Beth Garza, ERCOT’s former independent grid monitor, was not surprised when she heard how much Vegas would receive for the job. She saw it as “the price that had to be paid to get someone to come on to the hot seat,” Garza said to WFAA.
Garza indicated Vegas has a lot of hard work ahead of him.
“His biggest external task will be to re-earn the confidence of regulators and politicians in the ERCOT organization,” Garza said. “Internally, he will need to bolster the organization’s morale, ensuring they perform at the highest standards.”
Doug Lewin, an Austin-based power grid expert, is eager to see how Vegas plans to reconcile reliability with affordability. Even with a $2 million per year incentive package, Lewin said he does not envy the tough job Vegas has ahead of him as he tries to strike that balance.
With the average electricity price between $0.16 and $0.20 per kilowatt hour, consumers are hurting, Lewin told WFAA.
“Texas will not be an attractive place for businesses to locate and more Texans won’t be able to pay their energy bills if we can’t solve the affordability crisis while we solve the reliability crisis,” he explained.
As reported in The Dallas Express, this summer clocked record-breaking temperatures and 100-degree-day streaks that have not been seen in decades. Electricity usage reached consecutive all-time highs, prompting ERCOT to issue warnings about the possibility of blackouts and urging consumers to set their thermostats to 78 degrees.