ERCOT hires new CEO Pablo Vegas

A non-Texan will be the new ERCOT president and CEO. The Public Utility Commission of Texas approved the selection of Pablo Vegas on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people died during the power grid disaster in February 2021. The former ERCOT CEO was fired in the aftermath. About 18 months later, a new leader of Texas' main power grid operator has been selected.

"He's walking into obviously one of the most difficult jobs probably in the country," Stoic Energy President Doug Lewin said.

Pablo Vegas lives in Ohio and is the Executive Vice President of NiSource and the Group President of NiSource Utilities. The company delivers natural gas to about 2.3 million customers and electricity to nearly 500,00 customers.

"With NiSource, just a very different market, they're in PJM which is a 14-state capacity market, a very different resource mix, so it's going to be interesting what of his experience that sort of translates into Texas," Lewin said.

Starting Oct. 1, Vegas will be in charge of managing the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers.

"The mission is the same and the questions are how do you do that most effectively, so the CEO is going to have to keep helping the organization fulfill that particular mission," UT Austin Energy Institute Assistant Director Carey King said.

In a statement, Vegas said, "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. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an exceptional organization of people and make a positive impact on millions of Texans."

RELATED: Pablo Vegas, a utility executive in Ohio, named ERCOT’s new CEO

Since the freeze last year, Lewin said some improvements have been made with new transmission set to be built and a task force working to try to integrate rooftop solar and storage. But, energy efficiency hasn't been addressed, and the market structure has changed.

"Costing customers, when you add in all the ancillary services, it's probably closer to 3 billion than it is to 2, so that's a really big problem," Lewin said.

He said a needed change is a balance of affordability and reliability because Texans and Texas business owners are suffering.

"People throughout the state of Texas are paying higher energy bills because of this conservative operating and as the Independent Market Monitor put it, they're procuring these reserves even without regard to reliability need," Lewin said.

Lewin said he hopes Vegas will come in and be more transparent to earn trust with the public.

"The CEO of the grid operator should stand up very firm and with this contract and the terms in it, he should have that kind of independence to say we will not accept political interference. If there's something going on in this grid and feel the public needs to know about it, we will put out a press release," Lewin said.

Some energy experts said changes, if any, would take time.

"I wouldn't expect the new CEO to make drastic changes anytime soon because ERCOT is effectively an organization that arranges new protocols and new rules for running the grid based upon all the stakeholders in the grid, powerplant owners, transmission and distribution utilities, consumer advocacy groups and other companies," King said.

"I think there's a significant amount of change he can drive through the stakeholder process, through communication with the public," Lewin said.

Vegas' contract shows he'll be paid a base salary of $990,000 annually. On top of that, ERCOT will pay Vegas about $6.68 million over six years.

Brad Jones will continue to serve as the interim CEO until Oct. 1 and will help transition Vegas into this new role. 

FOX 7 Austin reached out to ERCOT for an interview with Vegas and was told he wasn't available.