PG&E Corp.'s Patricia Poppe unseated NextEra Energy Inc.'s Jim Robo as the highest-paid U.S. utility CEO in 2021, based on a combination of cash compensation, stocks and options granted, and nonequity incentive plan compensation.
Poppe, who left CMS Energy Corp. at the end of 2020 to lead PG&E Corp. following the California holding company's $58 billion financial restructuring, received total adjusted compensation of $51.2 million in 2021, including $41.2 million in stock awards, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of the 10 highest-paid U.S. utility executives in 2021. Nonequity compensation typically describes cash awards unrelated to stock performance.
As part of her move to PG&E Corp., Poppe received a one-time, make-whole cash bonus of $6.6 million and 2,910,205 restricted stock units under the company's long-term incentive plan to account for the compensation she forfeited at CMS. Poppe's base annual salary is $1.35 million.
CenterPoint Energy Inc.'s David Lesar was the second-highest paid utility CEO in 2021 and saw his compensation package increase 200% to $37.8 million, up from $12.6 million in 2020. In 2021, the holding company agreed to sell its Arkansas and Oklahoma gas utilities to Summit Utilities Inc. for $2.15 billion, including the recovery of $425 million in cash for extraordinary, unrecovered natural gas purchase costs that CenterPoint incurred during extreme winter weather in February.
NextEra's Robo saw his compensation increase nearly 7% to $24.3 million in 2021 from $22.8 million in 2020. The renewable energy giant completed the merger of Gulf Power Co. into Florida Power & Light Co. in January 2021, but the combined entity has come under scrutiny in 2022 for alleged secret political spending. Robo announced in January plans to step down as president and CEO, effective March 1, and was succeeded by John Ketchum.
Of the highest-paid utility executives in 2021, only American Electric Power Co. Inc.'s Nicholas Akins saw his pay package decrease.
Montauk Renewables Inc.'s Sean McClain, meanwhile, had the biggest percentage change in compensation, earning $9.4 million in 2021 compared to $600,000 in 2020. Avangrid Inc. CEO Dennis Arriola's pay increased from $1.8 million in 2020 to $13.9 million in 2021, for the second-highest percentage change, followed by Consolidated Edison Inc.'s Timothy Cawley. Arriola departed Avangrid in May.
FirstEnergy Corp. CEO Steven Strah's pay more than doubled from $3.3 million in 2020 to $8.8 million in 2021. Strah was appointed acting CEO on Oct. 29, 2020, after the firing of former CEO Charles Jones Jr. and two senior executives as part of an internal review tied to the company's role in a bribery scheme.
PG&E Corp.'s Poppe was awarded the most stock and options of any U.S. utility CEO in 2021, while CenterPoint's Lesar and Avangrid's Arriola saw the second- and third-biggest increases in their stock and options compared to 2020.
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