Chief Of Vermont’s Largest Utility To Retire

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(Host) The chief executive of Vermont’s largest electric utility plans to retire next year after nearly 16 years on the job.

Bob Young will step down from Central Vermont Public Service at the company’s annual meeting next May.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) When Bob Young took the helm of CVPS in late 1995 its retail rates were among the highest in New England. The company had a rocky relationship with state regulators, and its board of directors was embroiled in a lawsuit brought by a former employee.

The turnaround took time – the company regained investment grade status just last year. But its rates are now comparatively low, it has a smaller, more productive workforce. And it was recently named one of America’s most trusted companies by Forbes magazine.

Young says the company is well positioned as it launches a national search for his replacement.

(Young) "It seems to be the right time to make this decision, and leave the company that I certainly care a lot about. But I think I leave the company in good shape, with a great team, and I think doing pretty well in the world."

(Dillon) Young recalled his early days on the job, when CVPS struggled with employee morale problems and faced pressure to control costs. A long-term contract with Hydro-Quebec had saddled the utility with expensive and excess power at a time when cheaper electricity was available on the open market.

(Young) "Those were trying times and frustrating for a lots of people. Frustrating for the Legislature, frustrating for regulators, and frustrating for the company. And I think we just tried to take the position of, ‘OK, what’s a fair way to try to solve the problem we have here, particularly with this Hydro-Quebec contract.’"

(Dillon) In the end, the Canadian power deal had a stabilizing effect on rates as power prices surged elsewhere in New England earlier in the decade. And a long-term contract with Vermont Yankee also proved beneficial to customers, Young says.

CVPS is now finalizing a deal for a new 26-year contract with Hydro-Quebec. Vermont Yankee’s future is more in doubt. Young says the company should be able to find replacement power at competitive rates. He says the main impact of a Yankee shutdown would be that the company’s power mix would come from sources that produce more greenhouse gases.

(Young) "If don’t have Vermont Yankee, it changes our carbon footprint considerably. And I worry more about that from an environmental standpoint than I do about the whole issue of whether having to replace VY with another power source will do things that throw our pricing out of whack."

(Dillon) Young says he’s tried to focus the company and its employees to be more aware of their environmental impacts.

(Young) "When we generate power, and I don’t care what kind of power you use, you have an environmental impact. And we have to be as an industry conscious of the fact that we are stewards of that environment. And we have taken it very seriously here in Vermont, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because Vermonters care an awful lot about that.

(Dillon) CVPS has hired a consultant to search for a new CEO both within the company and nationally. Young says he plans to devote time to supporting the arts and other community projects.

He also says he plans to remain involved in the utility industry.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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