August 22, 2014

Utilities

In Power

Art Levy | 10/1/2010

CEO John B. Ramil has worked at TECO for 34 years.

Most new chief executives have a learning curve to navigate. Not so with John B. Ramil, new CEO of TECO Energy. The 55-year-old Tampa native joined TECO when he was a junior at the University of South Florida. He replaced Sherrill Hudson in August with the company well-positioned to navigate a cap-and-trade world. The company recently wrapped up a 10-year, $1.2-billion project to both update its coal plants to burn cleaner and convert more of its energy-generating capacity away from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas. Ramil also has the good fortune of taking over as the company rebounds from its financial difficulties of the early 2000s. It now has revenue of $3.3 billion. Following are challenges Ramil expects TECO and the industry will face in the coming years.

» "The New Normal" — TECO Energy, which operates Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System, used to count on its customer base growing around 3% every year. "We think the new normal is going to be more like 1½% to 2% customer growth," he says. That's one reason the company, which employs more than 4,000, including 2,500 in Tampa Bay, cut 225 jobs last year.

» Sun Block — Last year, TECO Energy had an agreement in place to purchase energy from a proposed 25-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility in Polk County. The deal fell through amid concerns that the power would cost up to five times more to produce than conventional energy. Ramil says that was a problem "particularly in today's economy." He still sees potential in solar energy but thinks state legislators must address the issue and set price standards.

» Transportation — Ramil says he knows how Americans can reduce their dependence on foreign oil: Drive electric cars. "Only 1% of the electricity produced in this country comes from oil," he says. "Ninety-five percent of our oil is used in transportation." TECO, along with bigger utilities Progress Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light, has joined the Get Ready Tampa Bay initiative, which works to promote electric cars and "plug-in ready" communities, where people will have more stations to charge their cars.

Ramil is also enthusiastic about compressed natural gas, which he says lends itself well to fueling fleets of vehicles. "It's cheaper than petroleum products to run your fleet, and it has a smaller carbon footprint," he says.

Tags: Southwest

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