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In rare move, ComEd taps outsider as new CEO

Crain's Chicago Business

Thursday, October 14, 2021  |  Article  |  Steve Daniels

ComEd (94)

Gil Quiniones, who runs the New York Power Authority, will have the challenging task of restoring the utility's tarnished reputation.

For the first time in decades, Commonwealth Edison has hired an outsider as CEO.

Gil Quiniones, currently CEO of the New York Power Authority, will take over at scandal-plagued ComEd on Nov. 15, the company announced today.

Quiniones, 55, has run the NYPA, the largest state-owned power company in the U.S., for a decade. NYPA operates power plants and high-voltage power lines serving a wide array of customers including businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

He will succeed Joe Dominguez, whom ComEd parent Exelon named as CEO of Exelon Generation on Oct. 1. Quiniones will report to Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon’s utilities group.

Quiniones will have the critical task of restoring ComEd’s reputation following its admission in July 2020 to a decade-long bribery scheme aimed at winning lucrative legislation in Springfield. ComEd is facing an audit of past expenditures by the Illinois Commerce Commission under the wide-ranging energy law signed last month by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. If the ICC determines some of those investments were inappropriate, it could mean lower ComEd rates and reduced profits.

“Gil is an experienced electric utility leader, with a proven ability to deliver world-class performance for customers and strengthen and uplift communities, including in urban areas, making him ideally suited to be the CEO of ComEd,” Butler said in a statement. “In addition, Gil is a high-integrity leader who is focused on ethics, equity and doing what is best for our diverse customers, communities and employees.”

ComEd is a linchpin in parent Exelon’s plan to spin off Exelon Generation—its power-plant business—into a separate, publicly traded company and focus on its more prized regulated utilities. ComEd is the largest of Exelon’s several utilities, which include companies delivering power to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Exelon is depending on future rate hikes at ComEd as the utility continues to invest in upgrading the Chicago area’s electricity grid to help fuel earnings growth.

Before joining the NYPA in 2007, Quiniones spent four years as senior vice president for the New York City Economic Development Corp., where he was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s top energy adviser. Bloomberg has been a consistent advocate for more aggressive action to address climate change.

The last time ComEd turned to an outsider for new leadership was in 1998, when John Rowe was tapped to run ComEd's parent at the time after a successful tenure atop the New England Electric System. Rowe was charged with improving ComEd's performance, particularly at its nuclear plants, which were operationally deficient.

He was extraordinarily successful at that. The nukes—now owned by Exelon Generation—lead the industry in performance.

Rowe also was CEO when the ComEd bribery scheme began, in 2011, according to federal prosecutors. He was succeeded in 2012 by Chris Crane, an insider, who remains Exelon's CEO today.