PG&E Corp., owner of California’s largest utility, will name DTE Energy Co. Executive Chairman Anthony Earley as its new chief executive officer, according to three people with knowledge of the selection.
Earley, 62, who stepped down as chief executive officer of Detroit-based DTE Energy last year, may be named as PG&E’s CEO as soon as tomorrow, said the people, who declined to be named because the negotiations are private.
PG&E spokeswoman Beth Foley said she was not immediately able to comment. DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons declined to comment.
Earley will succeed Peter A. Darbee, 58, who resigned in April as PG&E’s chairman, CEO and president following the September explosion of a company pipeline that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, California, a San Francisco suburb.
Earley will be taking the top job at a time when PG&E is confronting rising scrutiny from regulators over its pipeline safety, a criminal probe related to the San Bruno blast, and a customer backlash from new “smart meter” initiatives to track electricity usage. The company also may have to pay more than $1 billion to upgrade its network and perform safety tests, one of the reasons PG&E peeled back its profit forecast this year by about 5 percent.
PG&E has fallen 17.1 percent this year, making it the second-worst performer of the 33-member Standard and Poor’s Utilities Index.
PG&E froze its dividend this year because of rising costs associated with its pipelines. The utility, which distributes gas to 4.3 million customers, said on Aug. 4 it may spend as much as $550 million this year on gas-pipeline inspections, improvements and other safety work.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the state of California and local officials have opened a criminal investigation into the incident, PG&E said in June.
In June, an independent panel faulted PG&E’s management and pipeline-safety program for multiple weaknesses that contributed to the San Bruno explosion.
The utility’s effort to install wireless digital meters to remotely track energy use has been criticized by some customers and consumer groups. The company announced on May 2 it will replace about 1,600 of 2 million meters because of defects, and offer customers refunds and credits.
Darbee is a former telecommunications executive who joined the company in 1999 as chief financial officer.