Ex-Progress chief tabbed as new TVA leader

Former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson wasn’t unemployed long.

After being forced to resign as CEO of the combined Progress-Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) company when that merger became final in July, Johnson was named President and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Nov. 5.

Effective Jan. 1, 2013, Johnson will assume TVA’s top post. He will succeed another Progress Energy veteran, Tom Kilgore, who announced his plans to retire from TVA recently. Kilgore was named TVA’s top leader in October 2006. Kilgore came to TVA from Progress Ventures, a subsidiary of Progress Energy.

Kilgore was the first actual CEO for the federal utility.

Saying he has known Johnson for years, Kilgore said he could not be more excited to see Johnson succeed him at TVA. “Bill has a way of cutting through the complexity and asking simple questions,” Kilgore said.

“Bill, the people of the Tennessee Valley welcome you and I welcome you,” Kilgore said.

Johnson turns the page; seeks to prove TVA made right call

Johnson didn’t want to dwell on his ouster at the reconfigured Duke Energy. He cited an old lawyer’s saying that “nothing” is usually a good thing to say. Johnson did say that the Duke-Progress merger became contentious toward the end and the Duke board ultimately decided that it did not want him as CEO of the combined company.

When asked what he’d learned about himself through the prior four months, Johnson said he’d learned that he was “resilient” and that the sun still comes up in the morning.

A spokesperson for Duke Energy declined comment on Johnson’s selection. Johnson was chairman, president and CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based, Progress Energy, from October 2007 to July 2012.

“I am excited and honored to be selected to lead this organization in its mission of providing low-cost and ever cleaner energy, and promoting stewardship of the resources of the Tennessee Valley. I am particularly pleased to be following in the footsteps of Tom Kilgore, an outstanding leader whom I have long admired,” said Johnson.

Johnson also pledged to work hard every day to prove that the TVA board made the right decision.

Johnson was introduced at the Knoxville, Tenn., media briefing by TVA Board of Directors Chairman William Sansom.

“Bill is a seasoned CEO with deep experience leading a company with a diverse energy portfolio – from coal and gas, to nuclear, hydro and renewables,” Sansom said. “TVA will benefit from his strong leadership skills, deep industry expertise and ability to drive employee engagement,” the chairman added.

According to Sansom, Johnson’s annual compensation consists of $950,000 in salary and potential additional compensation of $3 million which is at-risk and may be awarded based on short- and long-term incentives tied to performance objectives and retention incentives.

TVA is an $11bn federal agency. Like Progress Energy, TVA operates a fleet of nuclear power plants. Cost of nuclear power infrastructure is also an issue at TVA. During his opening remarks, Johnson also indicated that completion of the never-finished Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant with no further cost over-runs would be a top priority.

Johnson’s handling of the Crystal River 3 nuclear plant in Florida, which has been offline since fall 2009 when cracks were discovered during a steam generator replacement outage, caused some Duke board members to question Johnson’s stewardship, according to regulatory testimony.

Johnson served as vice chair and on the executive committee of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and was chairman of the board of directors of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). He was also a member of the boards of directors of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO).

During Kilgore’s tenure, TVA experienced a major environmental disaster when failure of a coal ash storage facility near the Kingston power plant in Roane County, Tenn., destroyed several home in December 2008.

Like other utilities, Kilgore has been working to help TVA reduce its coal footprint and more to more low-carbon sources of generation.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.