Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:
Board extends offer for CEO
In an open session on Sept. 17, the Utilities Board unanimously voted to extend an offer to Aram Benyamin to be the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Colorado Springs Utilities.
Nearly 130 candidates from across the United States submitted their resumes for consideration. In June, the Utilities Board reviewed the top candidates and determined which candidates should complete advanced screening. In July, the Board reviewed the information and selected seven candidates to proceed as semifinalists.
Over the last few weeks, the full Utilities Board conducted seven semi-finalist interviews with internal and external candidates. Deliberations on who would be moving on as finalists were concluded prior to the Aug. 22 Board meeting.
As part of the process, there were opportunities for employees and the public to meet the CEO finalists and provide feedback to the Board. The Utilities Board incorporated the feedback they received from employees and the public and considered the information as they interviewed the candidates.
Aram Benyamin, P.E.
General Manager of Energy Supply
Colorado Springs Utilities
Aram Benyamin currently serves as the General Manager of the Energy Supply Department at Colorado Springs Utilities.
Prior to Colorado Springs Utilities, Mr. Benyamin was the Senior Assistant General Manager, head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) power system, the nation’s largest municipal utility.
At LADWP, Mr. Benyamin was responsible for 4,000 employees with an annual budget of $3.9 billion, serving more than four million residents of Los Angeles.
LADWP’s power system spans over four states. It includes 7,327 megawatts of generation capacity, 3,507 miles of high-voltage 500, 230 and 138 kV AC transmission lines, two 900 miles of 500 kV DC lines and a 465 square mile area of overhead and underground power distribution network.
Mr. Benyamin is a Professional Engineer and has a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering from California State University, Los Angeles. He also has a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from University of La Verne and a master’s degree in public of administration (MPA) from California State University, Northridge.
He has also earned a Certificate, Senior Executives in State and Local Government, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government; Certificate, Executive Business Management Program, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Anderson School of Management; Certificate, Engineering and Technical Management, UCLA; Certificate, Business Management Program, UCLA; Certificate, Leadership for the 21st Century, UCLA; Certificate, Total Quality Management, UCLA; Certificate, Construction Management, UCLA.
Mr. Benyamin’s current and past board member and trustee affiliations include YMCA Downtown Colorado Springs Board Member, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Worldwide District Committee Board Member, Boys and Girls Scouts commissioner, troop committee member and volunteer, Trustee of Joint Safety and Training Institutes, Southern California Public Power Association board member, Large Public Power Council board member and California Municipal Utilities Association board member.
View Mr. Benyamin’s resume. See Mr. Benyamin written responses to interview questions. Read Mr. Benyamin’s video interview transcript.
From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
Monday, Sept. 17, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted to offer the energy supply general manager, Aram Benyamin, a contract as the new CEO of the $2 billion enterprise.
Benyamin would replace Jerry Forte, who retired in May after more than 12 years as CEO.
He came to Utilities in 2015 from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power after he was ousted the previous year due to his close association with the electrical workers union, according to media reports. He also had supported the challenger of Eric Garcetti, who was elected as mayor.
Benyamin tells the Independent that he will accept the offer, although details are being worked out, including the salary. Forte was paid $447,175 a year.
Benyamin will take his cues on major policy issues from the Utilities Board but does have thoughts on power supply, water rights and other issues involving the four services offered by Utilities: water, wastewater, electricity and gas.
He says he hopes to see more options emerge for Drake Power Plant, a downtown coal-fired plant that’s been targeted for retirement in 2035. That’s way too late, according to some residents who have pushed for an earlier decommissioning date…
Utilities has been slower than some to embrace solar and wind, because of the price point, but Benyamin says prices are going down. “Every time we put out an RFP [request for proposals] the prices are less,” he says, adding that renewables will play a key role in replacing Drake’s generation capacity, which at present provides a quarter to a third of the city’s power.
While sources are studied, he says the city is moving ahead with “rewiring the system” to prepare for shutting down the plant. But he predicted a new source of generation will be necessary.
Though he acknowledged he’s not fully versed in Utilities’ water issues, he says it’s his goal to “serve the city first.”
“Any resources we have we need to prioritize them to the need of the city today and the future growth and then decide what level of support we can give to anybody else,” he says.
The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee earlier this year called for lowering the cost of water and wastewater service for outsiders — notably bedroom communities outside the city limits which are running lower on water or face water contamination issues.
Benyamin also says he’s open to further studying reuse of water. “Any chance we have to recycle water or use gray water for irrigation or any other use that would take pressure off our supplies, that’s always a great idea to look into,” he says.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):
“My short-term vision is to take a look at the organization and kind of recalibrate the vision of what a public utility should be and how a public utility should fit into the vision of the city itself,” Benyamin said.
Long-term goals include identifying what fuel changes Utilities will face and examining the water supply and transmission, he said.
Benyamin said he wants to insert leadership that will boost revenues while maintaining competitive rates. He also foresees increasing renewable energy production and energy storage.
“Renewables and storage are the trend of the future,” he said. “That’s where we’re going.”
Technology for storage and renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are becoming more efficient and affordable, Benyamin said. Combining those two factors with improved distribution of electricity will enable Utilities to be more versatile, he said.
The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown is to be closed no later than 2035, but Benyamin said that date could be moved up significantly with more technology, storage and transmission options.