PPL Mourns Passing of UK’s Western Power Distribution Chief Symons

Pennsylvania-based utility PPL Corp. revealed this week that Robert A. Symons, longtime chief executive of its Western Power Distribution subsidiary in the United Kingdom, passed away Wednesday due to illness.

PPL has implemented the company’s succession plan and named Philip Swift, previously WPD’s operations director, as chief executive of WPD.

“We are deeply saddened by Robert’s passing and extend our deepest sympathies to Robert’s family, friends and co-workers at WPD,” PPL Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer William H. Spence said in a statement.

“Guided by Robert’s vision and extraordinary leadership, WPD has consistently delivered for its customers in the U.K., achieving industry-leading customer satisfaction year after year and spurring innovation that is helping to advance a cleaner energy future,” Spence said. “He was never satisfied with the status quo, always challenging the business to reach higher for those it served.”

Symons has served as chief executive of Western Power Distribution since March 2000 and led its expansion over the last 18 years, including PPL’s purchase of Hyder in 2000, a utility holding company, and PPL’s acquisition of Central Networks in April 2011.

Among his accomplishments, in 2014 he led WPD through a regulatory price review process that resulted in WPD’s four distribution network operators becoming the only four electricity or gas distribution companies to have their business plan fast-tracked for approval by U.K. regulator Ofgem.

Symons had also served as the chair of the Energy Networks Association since late 2016, which represents electricity and gas transmission and distribution network operators in the U.K. and Ireland.

Swift, who succeeds Symons, joined WPD in 1992 following experience in the aerospace industry. With a degree in engineering and business, he has served in a variety of leadership roles within WPD. He was a senior member of the transition team responsible for the successful integration of Central Networks following PPL’s acquisition of Central Networks’ two distribution network licenses in 2011. He also led the team responsible for the delivery of WPD’s RIIO-ED1 business plan.

He has served in his most recent position, operations director, since July 2013, overseeing the day-to-day operations of WPD. He currently chairs the Energy Networks Association’s Electricity Networks and Future Group and is a member of the U.K.’s National Safety, Health and Environmental Committee for Energy.

“I have great confidence in Phil’s ability to lead our tremendous team in WPD and to continue the company’s proven track record of outstanding execution as we focus on the future for our customers,” Spence said. “Phil’s knowledge of the company, his commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction, and his leadership skills will serve us well moving forward.”

WPD serves 7.9 million customers in the U.K. As the U.K.’s largest distribution network operator, it covers densely populated residential areas and widely dispersed rural communities. PPL is holding company domestically with subsidiary utilities including PPL Electric Utilities, Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric.



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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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