Vegas — a Harvard Business School graduate, former president and chief operating officer with AEP Texas, and current executive vice president of Ohio company NiSource Utilities — will start on October 1. Per his employment contract, Vegas will be paid a base annual salary of $990,000 with $420,000 in performance-based incentives based on the ERCOT board’s “Key Performance Indicators” (KPI).
Among those KPIs are the grid’s resilience against cyber security threats, keeping under control the grid’s frequency, the accuracy of generation forecasts, and settling price points between generators and retail electric providers in a timely fashion.
ERCOT acts like an air traffic controller for the power grid, monitoring its conditions and reacting to changing circumstances to keep it stable and operational. It encompasses the vast majority of the state.
“I’m excited to return to Texas both personally and professionally,” Vegas said in a press release. “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.”
“Texas leaders have faced the challenges in the ongoing energy transition head-on and are committed to driving improvements in the energy economy for the benefit of generations to come.”
ERCOT Board Chair Paul Foster said, “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.”
“ERCOT has implemented landmark reliability reforms under the outstanding leadership of Interim CEO Brad Jones, and Pablo will put his own extensive background in operations, engineering and customer service to work building on that legacy for the people of Texas.”
Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman Peter Lake, head of the state agency that oversees the grid and ERCOT, also sang Vegas’ praises.
“Pablo’s exemplary track record of leadership and success at a major U.S. utility where he focuses on reliability and customer service make him the right leader at the right time for ERCOT,” Lake said. “ERCOT’s thorough and deliberate search process delivered an outstanding leader who brings deep experience and expertise managing large organizations and complex energy systems.”
Since former President and CEO Bill Magness was terminated by the ERCOT board last year in the fallout from the 2021 blackouts, the position has been filled on an interim basis by Brad Jones.
Due to that catastrophe last year, the grid and its regulator have fallen under a much more watchful eye by politicians and the public. But despite a few instances of tight conditions such as the two conservation alerts in July, the grid has withstood all tests after the legislature passed substantial reforms.
The demand on the grid is rapidly growing as more people and industries uproot themselves to Texas. ERCOT expected record electricity demand this summer, a target exceeded multiple times — new demand records have been set over 25 times since June.
The grid is also experiencing an influx of renewable energy generation with large amounts of solar and wind power being constructed in the coming years. In response to this, the PUC is ironing out a slate of reforms that will, among other objectives, try and compensate for renewables’ “distortion” of the electricity market — primarily, federal tax credits that allow those generators to break even at selling electricity for negative prices which have crowded out investment in new thermal generation.
And due to some of the post-blackout reforms — such as operating the grid with more caution and a larger cushion of available generation, both of which cost money — electricity prices are on the rise from their levels before 2021.
These are all issues with which Vegas must now contend in his new position.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.