SACRAMENTO — Bill Johnson, the chief executive of PG&E, will step down after just 14 months on the job, the company announced Wednesday.
Johnson, 66, was hired by the nation’s largest utility to rescue it from a financial crisis caused by a history of negligence and a reputation for putting profit over safety. His June 30 retirement announcement was not expected but it did not come as a surprise as PG&E tries to emerge from a bankruptcy triggered by deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires ignited by its decaying electrical grid.
In recent months, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has pressured the company to oust its entire 14-member board of directors, including Johnson, whose retirement date will coincide with the deadline for PG&E to wrap up its bankruptcy case — a brokered deal that includes $25.5 billion to pay for Northern California wildfires that killed nearly 130 people and destroyed more than 25,000 buildings.
As part of that deal, PG&E had agreed to replace some board members but gave no sign it planned to ask Johnson to step aside so soon after bringing him in from Tennessee, where he had headed another large utility.
“As we look to PG&E’s next chapter, this great company should be led by someone who has the time and career trajectory ahead of them to ensure that it fulfills its promise to reimagine itself as a new utility and deliver the safe and reliable service that its customers and communities expect and deserve,” Johnson said in a statement released with the retirement announcement.
At the start of 2020, North Fork Community Power finalized an agreement to sell energy generated at a new $15-million, 2-MW biomass plant to PG&E for $0.19 cents a kilowatt. Project organizers say their plan should not be impacted by Johnson’s departure.