Stan W. Connally Jr. took over as president and CEO of Gulf Power Company on July 1. He assumes control of the Pensacola-headquartered utility that provides energy services from Northwest Florida communities stretching from Perdido Key to Apalachicola and has over 1,400 employees.
The Georgia Tech graduate began his career with Southern Company in 1989 as a co-op student at Georgia Power’s Plant Yates and has held positions in various functional areas, including Customer Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Power Generation. He has managed plants for both Mississippi Power and Alabama Power. Most recently, Connally was Senior Vice President and Senior Production Officer for Georgia Power Company.
As the remnants of Hurricane Isaac passed through the area, the Gulf Power CEO took time to visit with the Independent News in his offices that overlook Pensacola Bay. Connelly talked about the differences between the Southern Company utilities, the future of the Crist Plant and whether nuclear power is coming to our area.
IN: You worked for all four of Southern Company’s subsidiaries, Mississippi Power, Alabama Power, Georgia Power and now Gulf Power. How are they different?
Connally: I have met the same type of folks in every company that I’ve been in. By that I mean they’re dedicated, hardworking and trying hard to serve companies. When you get to a company like Gulf Power, you find it to even a greater degree. There’s a sense of ownership in this company that’s pretty special. These people live and work here and are passionate about serving their communities.
IN: There has been considerable buzz about Gulf Power replacing the Crist Plant in the Cantonment area, possibly with a nuclear facility. What’s the future of that facility?
Connally: We’ve been investing in that plant for the long haul. When you think about diversity in our generation portfolio, having the Crist Plant in that portfolio is important to us. We’re proud to have it and it’s operating very, very well.
IN: What about a new plant?
Connally: We don’t have an immediate need for a new plant, but we’ve always got to be prepared. When you turn the light switch on in the morning that doesn’t happen because you built the plant yesterday. You started building the plant 10 to15 years ago.
IN: The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) denied, for a second time in July, Gulf Power’s request for a rate increase related to purchasing land in north Escambia County for a new plant. How does that impact the prospects of a new plant?
Connally: The north Escambia land was unique because it really opened all options for us – whether it be natural gas, clean coal or nuclear. The commission did not approve our [cost] recovery around that land. However, they did approve the majority of what we asked for last year. We’re evaluating all our options. The land, we think, is still a very strategic piece of property for our customers.
IN: What is the timeline for getting a new plant online?
Connally: Depends on the type of plant. A nuclear plant would have the longest lead time and it can take up to 10 years in planning, permitting and construction. A natural gas plant is less, about five to seven years.
IN: When will our area need a new plant?
Connally: It’s based on the projection of where your load growth is going to be. We’ve got teams every year looking at load growth, looking at customer growth and where is that customer growth. The advantage of the north Escambia property is that it’s close to a load center, Pensacola. There are a lot of variables and it is a long-range process. Load margins are a 10-15 percent, which is where you want it. We’re probably looking at 2020 before we need new generation, based on what we know today.
IN: You serve on the Board of Directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Florida. What role do you plan to personally play in the community?
Connally: I see my role as being sure I represent Gulf Power across the region and across the state. Our people are already involved. I think there are ways I can plug in and compliment them, in areas like United Way and American Cancer Society. Gulf Power has always been a part of the fabric of the community. I want to strengthen that fabric.
Gulf Power Presidents
1. Francis B. Carter (1926-1928)
2. Thomas W. Martin (1928-1931)
3. Robert W. Williamson (1931-1935)
4. Eugene A. Yates (1935-1948)
5. James F. Crist (1948-1955)
6. Lansing T. Smith, Jr. (1955-1961)
7. Robert L. Pulley (1961-1964)
8. Clyde A. Lilly, Jr. (1964-1968)
9. Robert F. Ellis, Jr. (1969-1978)
10. Edward L. Addison (1978-1983)
11. Douglas L. McCrary (1983-1994)
12. Travis J. Bowden (1994-2002)
13. Thomas A. Fanning (2002-2003)
14. Susan N. Story (2003-2010)
15. Mark A. Crosswhite (2011-2012)
16. Stan Connally (2012-present)