New CEO tapped for TVA

New CEO tapped for TVA

November 5th, 2012 by Pam Sohn and Dave Flessner in Local Regional News

William D. Johnson, who will become president and CEO of TVA on Jan. 1, 2013, speaks at a news conference in Knoxville. The former North Carolina utility official¹s appointment was announced by TVA Board Chairman Bill Samson.

Photo by Staff Report /Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has tapped the former head of one of the South's biggest electric utilities to be the federal power provider's next chief executive.

William D. "Bill" Johnson, the former CEO of Progress Energy in North Carolina who was ousted two months ago when Progress merged with Duke Energy, has been chosen to succeed Tom Kilgore, sources said Sunday.

Kilgore, also a former Progress Energy executive who has run TVA for six years, plans to retire at the end of the year.

TVA board members reportedly have chosen Johnson after considering more than 70 candidates.

Utility spokesman Travis Brickey declined Sunday to comment on reports of Johnson's appointment, but he said a news conference is scheduled at 10 a.m. today at TVA's headquarters in Knoxville.

Johnson, 58, was slated to become head of the nation's biggest electricity utility, Duke Energy, in July when Progress merged with it. But Duke's board replaced Johnson with former Duke CEO Jim Rogers within a day of the merger's closure.

The Los Angeles Times estimates Johnson will walk away with $44 million from his one day of work for Duke.

TVA is the nation's biggest government utility, with nearly $12 billion in revenues and more than 12,000 employees. But it's also a utility with a full slate of problems to greet the seasoned new CEO.

• Brown's Ferry Nuclear plant in North Alabama is under the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's sternest safety finding -- a red rating.

• Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Dayton, Tenn., is $2 billion over budget and three years behind in construction on its second reactor.

• And Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Soddy-Daisy is in the middle of a generator replacement project that requires cutting the top off the Unit 2 reactor containment building.

A generator replacement is a touchy job, as Johnson learned when the concrete containment structure at Progress' Crystal River Plant cracked during a 2009 replacement.

The Charlotte Observer reported the repair bill could run from $1.5 billion to $3.4 billion, and the reactor could be offline until 2016. According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the reasons Johnson was ousted was Crystal River.

Duke lead director Ann Gray told the North Carolina Utilities Commission in July that the energy giant lost confidence in Johnson in part because he "had withheld information from the board about rising repair costs at Progress's troubled Crystal River, Fla., nuclear plant," according to the Journal's story.

Kilgore's exit

The TVA board's final board meeting of this year is scheduled next week in Scottsboro, Ala., where Kilgore grew up.

Kilgore's base salary and annual performance incentive totaled nearly $4 million in 2011. He plans to do some farming in retirement, though he has agreed to continue working through any executive transition.

TVA hired the McAuley Firm, a Charlotte, N.C.-based executive search firm, to help find the agency's next CEO.

Johnson joined Progress in 1992 and served in a number of roles before he became chairman and CEO in October 2007. Before joining Progress, Johnson was a partner with the Raleigh, N.C., office of Hunton & Williams, where he specialized in legal representation of utilities.

He previously served as a law clerk to the Honorable J. Dickson Phillips Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Johnson has served on the boards and executive committees of the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute. He also is active in the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.

The sturdily built, 6-foot, 5-inch Johnson played on the offensive line of a Penn State football team but did not earn a degree. He later graduated from Duke University summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history, and received a law degree with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982.

Johnson was selected by the board over other candidates for TVA's top job, including TVA's chief generation officer, Kim Greene; PJM Interconnection President Terry Boston, a former TVA executive who maintains a home on Signal Mountain; and retiring Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald, who headed the nuclear submarine program.