- The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) on March 13 announced its board has named James Robb, the former head of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), as new CEO.
- Robb will come into the job after the resignation of former NERC CEO Gerry Cauley, who left the nonprofit after his arrest for battery and family violence charges stemming from a relationship with a female NERC employee.
- Robb became CEO of WECC in 2014 and previously held roles at Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy) and Reliant Energy (now a retail arm of NRG Energy). Before that, he spent 15 years at McKinsey & Company.
Robb's appointment as NERC's next CEO comes at a trying time for the federal nonprofit charged with overseeing the reliability of the bulk power system.
Former CEO Cauley resigned in November after an arrest for family violence charges. A police report indicated he allegedly "grabbed his wife and pushed her into a bathtub," following revelations he was involved in an online relationship with a "young female employee of his."
The incident came shortly Secretary of Energy Rick Perry called into question NERC's reliability assessments as part of his push for coal and nuclear plant subsidies. The incident also occurred just before NERC completed its biennial GridEx exercise, aimed at shoring up the power grid's cyber and physical defenses.
As head of WECC, Robb oversaw NERC's largest electricity coordinating committee, stretching from British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California, Mexico, and from California to Colorado. In a statement, the NERC Board of Trustees Chairman Roy Thilly said the board had unanimously chosen Robb after a "comprehensive, nationwide search."
"As the head of WECC, Robb led the [NERC's] largest Region where he improved member relations, strengthened the management team, and expanded collaboration with NERC and other Regional Entities," the statement reads.
When he was appointed as WECC CEO, the coordinating council touted Robb's leadership at Northeast Utilities, where he "spearheaded" the development of the Northern Pass transmission project, a 1,200 MW capacity line now in danger of being rejected by New Hampshire siting regulators.
In addition to private sector experience, WECC noted that Robb had "led a series of projects for an influential economic policy think tank in San Francisco that focused on the structural issues that led to the California Energy Crisis."
Robb will take over CEO duties on April 9 from NERC Senior Vice President and General Counsel Charles Berardesco, who has been acting as chief executive during the search for a full-time CEO.