By XANDER LANDEN
The Vermont Electric Cooperative has hired its next CEO.
Rebecca Towne, the current vice president of organizational strategy at Vermont Gas Systems, will be taking the reins at Vermont’s second largest electric utility at the beginning of October, the cooperative announced.
The company’s last full-time CEO was Christine Hallquist, who stepped down in February to run for governor. Last week, Hallquist won the Democratic gubernatorial primary and will face Gov. Phil Scott in November.
Towne has worked at Vermont Gas since 2015, where she said she has focused on bolstering the company’s use of technology, building its team of employees and overseeing strategic planning for renewable energy initiatives.
Towne is a veteran of Vermont’s utility industry. Before working at Vermont Gas, she spent roughly 15 years at Green Mountain Power, where she says she spent time in nearly all of the company’s departments.
VEC serves about 32,000 members in 75 predominantly rural Northern Vermont communities including Shelburne and Hinesburg.
“I’m from rural Vermont and have a deep love for rural Vermont,” Towne said. “And that kind of speaks to me to think about what it means to serve a mostly rural area and the challenges that come with doing that.”
When she takes over for VEC in October, Towne said that she hopes to continue to help foster the company’s work culture, and steward its renewable energy programs.
“I think for me it’s really about continuing what they’re already focused on: Service to members … delivering the energy needs of tomorrow, not just today.”
The company already offers incentives for ratepayers to transition from fossil fuels to renewables and operates a community solar program through which members can sponsor solar projects and save money through bill credits.
“Customers are paying closer attention to their energy, they want to do more themselves and they expect utilities to be a step ahead of them,” Towne said.
Since Hallquist stepped down as CEO at the beginning of the year, VEC’s general counsel, Vickie Brown, has served as the company’s interim top executive.
Hallquist was CEO for the past 12 years and has been credited with playing a key role in turning the cooperative around after its recovery from bankruptcy. The utility has been recognized nationally for its innovation.
“No doubt she has built an incredibly talented team at VEC and has quite a legacy … in the energy world of Vermont,” Towne said of Hallquist. “Absolutely those are big shoes to fill.”