After an over-a-year nationwide search, the state’s power grid operator announced a new CEO. Pablo Vega, who is currently the executive vice president of NiSource, an Indiana-based utility company, is set to join ERCOT on October 1, 2022.
This will not be the first time Vegas has worked within ERCOT’s service territory. According to the press release, in 2008 he was president and chief operating officer for AEP Texas, a unit of the retail energy provider American Electric Power in south and west Texas.
“In Pablo, we’ve found a leader for ERCOT with deep experience at one of the nation’s largest regulated utilities, who brings a strong record of operational excellence managing system growth with a diverse and rapidly evolving energy mix,” said ERCOT board chair Paul Foster.
“Pablo will put his own extensive background in operations, engineering and customer service to work building on that legacy for the people of Texas,” added Foster.
Vegas will be replacing interim CEO Brad Jones, who took the position after Magness was fired in the aftermath of the disastrous power outages of February 2021 that left millions without power and cost the lives of 246 people. According to the official statement, ERCOT has implemented landmark reliability reforms under the interim CEO.
Vegas himself seems to be eager to start working. “I’m excited to return to Texas both personally and professionally,” he said. “Texas is the fastest growing electric grid in the nation with peak demand larger than any other state, and leads the nation in advancing reliable resources.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an exceptional organization of people and make a positive impact on millions of Texans,” Vegas added.
Despite the new CEO’s excitement, it looks like getting someone to take ERCOT’s offer wasn’t easy. In addition to Gov. Abbott taking control over the selection process, as covered by the Texas Tribune, WFAA reported that they also offered a lucrative compensation package: a base salary of $990,000, annual incentive payments totalling $1.4 million, $6.8 million in “make-whole payments” and a $248,500 lump sum payment this year.
Beth Garza, ERCOT’s former independent grid monitor said via WAFF that she considers the salary to be within the limits of other power grid CEOs, and the make-whole payments are the price that needs to be paid to get someone to come on the hot seat.
“I don’t know anything about Mr. Vegas, but I wish him all the best,” Garza said. “His biggest external task will be to re-earn the confidence of regulators and politicians in the ERCOT organization. Internally, he will need to bolster the organization’s morale, ensuring they perform at the highest standards.”