For the first time in more than two decades, the chief executive’s office at Eversource Energy in the Prudential Tower has a new occupant. But he is a familiar face to longtime employees. Jim Judge has essentially been preparing for this job his entire career. Judge rose up through the ranks, starting at Boston Edison in 1977 as a rate research analyst. He became the company’s chief financial officer 20 years ago, promoted by a then-new chief executive, Tom May. Judge, now 60, succeeded his mentor this past spring. (May retired but remains on the board as chairman.) May presided over two big mergers, one that turned Boston Edison into NStar, and then a second that combined NStar and Northeast Utilities to create Eversource. Judge sees different challenges ahead. They include figuring out how to get a major power line built through New Hampshire known as Northern Pass and lining up financing to pay for a natural gas pipeline expansion, called Access Northeast. Judge spoke recently about his plans.
1. Eversource supports a number of community events, including the Hartford Marathon, the Walk for Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Walk with Me and 5k Run for Easter Seals in Manchester, N.H. But Judge thinks the company should be doing more.
“We owe it to the community. We’re a major company in the region, perhaps the biggest energy company in the region. It’s important that we support initiatives that are important to the customers we serve. I expect to see a doubling down . . . for community commitments.”
2. Judge praised state leaders for the new energy law that compels utilities such as Eversource to buy large amounts of hydropower from Canada and offshore wind power (and to be allowed to pass any extra costs on to ratepayers). A plan to increase the renewable energy requirements for utilities — Eversource opposed this one — was rejected during House-Senate negotiations.
“I know it’s a science into itself, in terms of the legislative process. . . . Ultimately, it came out to be a pretty balanced piece of legislation. Obviously, it could have been a lot worse for consumers, in my mind.”
3. Eversource was often on the opposing side of the debate with environmentalists. Judge says natural gas still needs to play an important role, but he also wants Eversource to be a catalyst in the “clean energy revolution.” That means developing Northern Pass to tap into hydropower, company-owned solar projects, grid-scale electricity storage, and electric-vehicle, or EV, charging stations.
“Because of the economies of scale, I think utility-sized solar is cheaper than most solar alternatives. Hydro is part of the story. Wind is part of the story. Solar is part of the story. I think EVs are going to become a bigger part of the deal. I see this company stepping up and building out EV infrastructure.”
4. Eversource was created through several significant mergers, most recently the one that combined Boston-based NStar with Connecticut’s Northeast Utilities four years ago. The company now employs about 8,000 people and has 3.6 million customers. But Judge doesn’t expect the M&A activity to continue.
“We’re at a size now where I think we’re in control of our own destiny. I don’t think we have to worry about the threat of someone taking us over. The merger process can be painful to go through. . . . I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s going to change that, but obviously, you never say never.”
5. His job takes him all over New England, although he spends many of his days at Eversource facilities in Westwood and in Berlin, Conn. The job responsibilities don’t leave him much free time. So when he has it, he spends time with his family. He grew up in a big family in Dorchester and now lives in Hanover.
“Most of my time off is family driven. . . . I always put in a long workday. [My] habits developed early on, and my family has been very gracious about accommodating that. I have four children, and my sixth grandchild is on the way. They all live in the area.”