The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s Board of Directors announced the appointment of Walter Higgins as the public corporation’s new CEO. Higgins will move to Puerto Rico from the Reno/Lake Tahoe area of Nevada.
Higgins comes to PREPA with more than 40 years of top management experience, including: Sierra Pacific Resources (SPR) (now known as NVEnergy); AGL Resources and Atlanta Gas Light Company, notably the first deregulated natural gas utility in the United States; Louisville Gas and Electric Company; and Portland General Electric Company.
Before retiring in late 2016, Higgins was president and CEO, and Director of Ascendant Group Limited, a diversified energy and infrastructure holding company in Bermuda, from 2012 to 2016.
In this position, Higgins led Ascendant Group and its subsidiary companies: BELCO, the sole electric utility provider for Bermuda, and AG Holdings Limited, which operates several infrastructure and renewable/alternative energy companies serving Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
During this time, Higgins led an initiative to revise the electric utility rate structure to help customers who used less electricity. While Higgins was CEO, Bermuda was struck by three major hurricanes. The company’s performance during and in restoring from these storms was commended by the government and the press.
Under Higgins’ leadership, the company prepared and submitted to the government a long-term plan for electricity for the island which included measures to stabilize long term electric rates, greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a smart-grid undertaking. The company also contributed to a major electric industry restructuring which the country’s government undertook.
“Higgins is uniquely qualified to take on this executive role, with decades of industry experience across utility and executive management, plant strategy and operations, and recovery and transformation processes. Through his military service and breadth of senior leadership positions, Higgins has proven himself a distinguished leader and industry visionary,” said Ernesto Sgroi-Hernández, PREPA Governing Board chair.
Higgins will succeed Justo González, existing Interim Executive Director, who has been working on the recovery of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure since November 2017.
Higgins began his career as a U.S. naval officer. After graduating with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1966, he served as a nuclear submarine officer, and as a nuclear engineer. After ending his active military service, Higgins remained a naval reservist and ultimately retired as a captain after nearly 30 years of service.
“Higgins’s career has spanned over 40 years of real-life experience working in all aspects of the electric utility space. He has the knowledge, experience and desire to lead PREPA during the coming transition,” Sgroi said.
“What really appealed to us was, not only was his top-notch resume, but his experience in Bermuda in the island environment and preparing to transition from an oil-based generating system. The Board looks forward to working together with Higgins to achieve our shared vision for Puerto Rico’s energy future,” Sgroi said.
In his new role as PREPA CEO, Higgins will work closely with the PREPA Governing Board and related agencies and policy makers. He will also continue serving as non-executive Chairman of South Jersey Industries, and on the board of directors of AEGIS.
“I am deeply honored to assume this new role at PREPA. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the Board, company leadership and all stakeholders come together to prioritize recovery and transformation efforts,” Higgins said.
“We have a real opportunity here, not just to restore power but to eventually deliver lower-cost, reliable power for all the citizens of Puerto Rico. We want to establish a model for customer focus, power generation, grid management, use of micro-grids and renewables, and delivery that sets a global example for cost, resilience, sustainability, and customer engagement and empowerment,” he added.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the PREPA Governing Board and staff during this transformation and am eager to begin serving the citizens of Puerto Rico to the best of my abilities,” he said.