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NextEra's Robo remains highest-paid US utility CEO in 2020

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NextEra's Robo remains highest-paid US utility CEO in 2020

For the third year in a row, NextEra Energy Inc. Chairman, President and CEO James Robo was the highest-paid utility executive in the U.S. based upon a combination of cash compensation, stocks and options granted, and non-equity incentive plan compensation.

Robo received total adjusted compensation of $22.8 million in 2020, including $13.1 million in stock awards, for an overall 8.6% increase from $21 million in 2019, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of the 10 highest-paid U.S. utility executives in 2020. Non-equity compensation typically describes cash awards unrelated to stock performance.

NextEra also had the highest CEO to median employee pay ratio of 176-to-1, the analysis shows. The median employee's annual total compensation in 2020 was $134,919, the company reported in its proxy statement.

The stock price for the Juno Beach, Fla.-headquartered utility increased by more than 27% to $77.15 at the end of 2020 from $60.54 at the end of 2019. The company's market capitalization surpassed $150 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Reports emerged in the fall of 2020 that NextEra had approached Charlotte, N.C.-headquartered Duke Energy Corp. about a potential merger of the nation's two largest, investor-owned utilities by market cap. Wall Street, however, has been skeptical about the likelihood of the takeover and neither company would confirm merger talks.

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While the stock price at Southern Co. dropped nearly 4% to $61.43 at the end of 2020, the analysis shows Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Fanning brought in $16.6 million in total adjusted compensation in 2020, including $12.3 million in stock awards, to become the second highest-paid utility CEO in the nation. This represents a 4.4% increase from $15.9 million in total adjusted compensation in 2019. The analysis does not include a change in pension value of about $5.7 million.

Southern reported a CEO to median employee pay ratio of 134-to-1 in 2020. The median employee's annual total compensation in 2020 was $122,763, the company reported in its proxy statement.

American Electric Power Co. Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins claimed the third spot in the ranking with $14.8 million in total adjusted compensation in 2020, including $9.6 million in stock awards, for an overall 6% increase in compensation from $14 million in 2019. AEP's stock price, meanwhile, fell nearly 12% to $83.27 at the end of 2020 from $94.51 at the end of 2019.

AEP reported a CEO to median employee pay ratio of 110-to-1 in 2020. AEP disclosed that its median employee's annual total compensation in 2020 was $140,965.

The heads of Exelon Corp. and Duke Energy both saw reductions in 2020 total adjusted compensation, the analysis shows.

Exelon President, CEO and Director Christopher Crane earned $14.4 million in total adjusted compensation, including $11 million in stock awards, for an overall 3.4% decrease from $15 million in 2019. Exelon's stock price dropped by more than 7% to $42.22 at the end of 2020 from $45.59 at the end of 2019.

The company reported a CEO to median employee pay ratio of 96-to-1 in 2020. The median employee earned $157,000 in 2020, according to Exelon.

Duke Energy Chair, President and CEO Lynn Good saw a 2.6% drop in total adjusted compensation to $14.3 million in 2020, including $11.4 million in stock awards, from $14.7 million the previous year. Duke Energy's stock price increased slightly to $91.56 at the end of 2020 from $91.21 at the end of 2019.

Duke Energy reported a CEO to median employee pay ratio of 116-to-1 in 2020. Duke Energy estimated the median of its 2020 annual total compensation for employees, excluding the CEO, to be $125,812.

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Four of the top 10 utility CEOs ranked by percentage change in year-over-year compensation took the helm of their respective companies in 2020.

This list includes Dominion Energy Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Robert Blue, who took over for the late Thomas Farrell II in October 2020.

Blue ranks third on this list, followed by ALLETE Inc. Chair, President and CEO Bethany Owen, who was elected CEO of the Minnesota utility in February 2020.

PPL Corp. President, CEO and Director Vincent Sorgi and Idacorp Inc. President, CEO and Director Lisa Grow also make the list. Sorgi and Grow both took over as CEO of their respective Pennsylvania and Idaho utilities in June 2020.

Michael Stein, CEO of retail energy supplier Genie Energy, saw the biggest change in total adjusted compensation from 2019 to 2020 at about 183%, the analysis shows. Stein earned $2.2 million in 2020, compared to about $800,000 in 2019, according to the analysis.

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