PG&E Pacifier?

California’s largest utility aims to move forward after scandal

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has appointed Wade Smith as Senior Vice President, Electric Operations, according to an April 14 press release published on BusinessWire. Mr. Smith begins on May 3, 2021 and will report to Adam Wright, PG&E’s Executive Vice President, Operations and Chief Operating Officer, who joined the company earlier this year.

“Wade brings the ideal skillset and background to help us deliver safe and reliable energy for our customers and hometowns. He is a proven leader with extensive electric operations expertise and industry knowledge. On top of that, he brings a big heart and a strong passion for people. I am confident Wade will hit the ground running and advance our efforts to become a better and safer energy company,” said Mr. Wright.

It’s no secret why Wright chose to prioritize safety and reliability in his statement. PG&E is attempting to navigate a storm of negligence and scandal that dates back at least a decade and includes a cloud of recent executive shuffling. William D. “Bill” Johnson was appointed as CEO in 2019, only to retire less than a year later.

Mr. Smith will be responsible for PG&E’s electric transmission and distribution operations and maintenance, as well as emergency preparedness and response efforts. While his primary focus will be on executing the work needed to serve customers and maintain PG&E’s electric grid on a day-to-day basis, Mr. Smith will also work in close coordination with PG&E’s new Wildfire Risk Organization, set up to ensure all wildfire mitigation work is executed consistently and effectively. Wildfires are a major issue throughout the American West and have specifically been problematic for PG&E in the past.

PG&E has made several key additions to its leadership team this year, adding executives with significant energy, transformation, operations and safety experience.

“I am honored to join PG&E at such an important time for the company. I’ve spent the past three decades in the energy industry, and I wholeheartedly believe in the power of operational excellence to fundamentally strengthen a company for the long term. I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to PG&E and locking arms with the rest of the PG&E team to deliver results for our customers and the communities we serve,” said Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith has over 30 years of comprehensive operations and financial management experience in the utility industry. He spent the past three decades at American Electric Power (AEP), serving in various leadership roles. AEP is one of the largest utilities in the U.S., serving over 5 million customers across 11 states.

Most recently, Mr. Smith was Senior Vice President, Grid Development, overseeing transmission planning, engineering, project management, construction and system operations teams. In this role, Mr. Smith executed AEP’s $20 billion transmission capital investment program and led efforts to improve reliability and increase operational efficiency in overseeing a 40,000-mile transmission system. He also brings experience in asset management and effective work prioritization, including managing R&D programs focused on new technologies and developing safe, reliable and compliant policies and procedures.

Previously, Mr. Smith served as President and Chief Operating Officer for AEP Texas; Vice President, Transmission Engineering and Project Services for AEP Service Corporation; and Director, Gas Turbine and Joint Venture Operations for AEP Service Corporation; among other operations and engineering roles at the company.

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