Former TVA CEO Will Take the Reins at PG&E

PG&E Corp. announced on April 3 the appointment of William “Bill” Johnson as the company’s new president and CEO. It also announced the appointment of 10 new directors to its board of directors. The board appointments will be effective as of the next in-person board meeting, which will be held as soon as practicable, the company said.

Johnson, who turned 65 in January, announced his retirement as president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on November 14, 2018. At the time, Johnson was expected to remain at TVA’s helm until a replacement had been selected, and the new leader had completed a period of orientation and transition. On February 14, the TVA board of directors announced Jeffrey Lyash would take Johnson’s position effective in April 2019. Lyash had been president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation Inc., one of the largest electrical generating companies in Canada. He was formerly president of CB&I Power and executive vice president of Energy Supply for Duke Energy.

But rather than riding off into the sunset, Johnson will step into a new role as the leader of PG&E, the San Francisco, California-based company that faces a bevy of challenges. PG&E filed for bankruptcy on January 29, saying it faced as much as $30 billion in potential liabilities for its role in a series of wildfires in the state.

During Johnson’s time at TVA, the organization achieved the best safety records in its 85-year history. PG&E will be looking for similar improvements in its performance, which has been widely scrutinized as a result of events such as the San Bruno natural gas pipeline blast that killed eight people and injured dozens more in 2010. The utility was ultimately convicted in 2017 of six felony charges connected to that explosion. Inadequate maintenance practices have also been alleged against the company in various wildfire claims.

“With more than a decade of combined chief executive experience at two large utility companies, Mr. Johnson has a deep understanding of managing risk and the responsibility of keeping customers safe,” PG&E’s board said in a news release. “We believe Mr. Johnson is the right leader for PG&E as we work to strengthen our safety culture and navigate a complex and challenging period in our company’s history.”

Prior to his tenure with TVA, Johnson was the CEO of Progress Energy.

“I am humbled to take on this new challenge and am dedicated to meeting the high expectations that our customers, regulators and legislators have for PG&E,” Johnson said in a news release. “While the challenges facing PG&E and California are significant, by working together, we will overcome them to serve the best interests of our customers, their families and the communities we serve. This starts with a steadfast commitment to providing safe and reliable power.”

PG&E’s Board expects Johnson to begin his new role in late April 2019.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).