In a news release, ERCOT officials said Vegas' selection came after “an exhaustive nationwide search.” The council has been without a permanent leader for approximately 16 months, after former CEO Bill Magness was fired for the ERCOT’s handling of the February 2021 winter storm.
During the winter storm, multiday blackouts left millions of people without electricity or heat amid freezing temperatures. Hundreds of Texans died.
Magness was terminated in March 2021 but remained in his role for two months, until Brad Jones joined the ERCOT as interim president and CEO in May.
Vegas serves as executive vice president of NiSource Inc. and group president of NiSource Utilities. NiSource is one of the nation’s largest regulated utility companies and operates in six states: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Vegas is not new to Texas, however. He has held multiple roles with American Electric Power, a utility company in 11 states. From 2008-10, Vegas worked as president and chief operating officer for AEP Texas, which operates under the ERCOT. He has held multiple other senior roles with AEP.
In the release, Vegas said he was excited to return to Texas.
“Texas is the fastest growing electric grid in the nation with peak demand larger than any other state and leads the nation in advancing reliable resources,” 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.”
According to Vegas’ employment agreement, he will receive an annual base salary of $990,000. The ERCOT will also pay Vegas an additional $6.68 million over six years, with the first portion paid on Dec. 1. Vegas will also be eligible for a variety of “incentive payments” beginning in 2023.
Per state law, the employment contract was approved by the ERCOT and its regulator, the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Jones, who will serve as interim CEO until Oct. 1, makes $500,000 annually, according to reporting by The Texas Tribune. His predecessor, Magness, made $944,000 in 2019, according to tax forms.
In the release, ERCOT Board Chair Paul Foster lauded Vegas for his “deep experience” and leadership managing a large utility network.
Vegas, who lives in Ohio, will remain with NiSource until Sept. 2, according to a news release. The company is searching for his replacement.
The ERCOT has faced heavy criticism from Texas and lawmakers across the nation since the February 2021 winter storm. The council asked Texans to voluntarily conserve energy twice this July, as heat advisories plagued the state.
In June 2021, the Texas Legislature passed several bills to help prepare the state’s power grid for emergencies and prevent massive spikes in electricity prices, which is what happened during the storm.