PADUCAH, KY — “By the end of his first day on the job as Paducah Power System’s interim general manager, Mark Crisson made two things abundantly clear.
First, his top priority is to choose a new and better qualified marketing company to manage the utility’s portfolio. Second, he doesn’t want to make such decisions hastily, but knows he must make them “with dispatch.”
Crisson retired from the American Public Power Association earlier this year after serving as president and CEO since January of 2008. Before that he spent almost 30 years with Washington Public Utilities in Tacoma, serving as its CEO for 15 years.
Crisson accepted the position as interim GM for Paducah Power on Tuesday and began work Thursday. He will serve as GM for the utility for an estimated five months while the board searches for a permanent replacement for former GM Dave Clark, who resigned two weeks ago.
Crisson joined Paducah Power in a time of widespread criticism. PPS has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the poor performance of the Prairie State Energy Campus, its chief power supplier; the costs of its debt as a Prairie State owner/investor; and the impact of those costs on electric rates, believed to be the state’s highest.
Thursday night Crisson and PPS board chairman Hardy Roberts spoke to a group of Paducah residents gathered for the West-End Neighborhood Association’s fall meeting.
“We’ve got a number of objectives for the next few weeks, but at the top of the list is improving our financial and operating performance,” Crisson told the group.
Responding to a question about obtaining some rate relief in the near term, he said, “I don’t want to raise hopes in that area. It took a while to get into this predicament, and frankly my goal right now is to try to stabilize things a little bit. If we can stabilize things, then there’s a prospect for reversing course and backing off on the level of rates.”
Crisson explained that the company Paducah Power currently has on retainer to market, buy and sell power is not the most qualified. Securing better management for the utility’s portfolio is the first step to stabilizing PPS’ financial situation, he said. The power marketing company now on retainer has a contract with PPS that is up at the end of the year. Crisson is determined to secure a new company as soon as possible to take its place.
“The company we currently have has primarily gas market experience,” he said. “I really would much rather them understand the power markets. These companies we’re talking to are power marketing experts.”
Crisson said he’s narrowed options for a new marketer down to two companies, both of which will optimize the portfolio of Paducah Power by buying and selling more efficiently on the market.
“These are two very well-respected, very well-funded companies,” Crisson said. “The challenge really is to make a choice between the two, and that’s what we hope to do in the next three to four weeks.”
One West-End Neighborhood Association member brought up the Paducah Power peaking plant. Crisson replied that the under-utilization of the plant is at the core of his concerns of how Paducah Power’s portfolio is being managed. He thinks more savvy management could be a key to a financial turnaround for Paducah Power.”
— GENEVIEVE POSTLETHWAIT, PADUCAH SUN
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