AZ Leadership: Don Brandt

Entering an air-conditioned house in the 115 degree heat, turning on the lights, flipping on the TV; all of these actions we take for granted come courtesy of those who work to provide reliable and essential electric power service to households across the state. Don Brandt, Chairman, President and CEO of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation and Arizona Public Service (APS), looks to ensure that Arizona’s electric needs are met.

With 20 years of experience in the power industry, Brandt came to Pinnacle West in 2002 from St. Louis, Missouri. The electric utility holding company based in Phoenix  is parent company to APS, the state’s largest and longest running electric company, serving 2.7 million people across 11 of the 15 counties in Arizona.

“Right now, the economy is on fire,” Brandt said. “We’re expecting by 2025 almost a 50 percent increase in energy needs in Arizona.” In order to meet the demands of the ever-expanding economy, the executive says that they continue to build their renewable portfolio, which primarily consists of solar.

A strong believer in nuclear power, Brandt serves as chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute and vice chairman of Nuclear Power Operations. He also oversees Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, “the largest source of clean energy in the United States.”

As November quickly approaches, Brandt fears for Arizona as voters will decide the fate of Proposition 127, an effort led by California billionaire Tom Steyer to mandate an aggressive new renewable energy standard. The initiative does not credit nuclear power as a renewable energy source.

“We’ve told our employees and I’ll say it here, if that passed, with high probability we’d be shutting Palo Verde down in 2024, which is insane,” the executive stated. “Our carbon emissions would go up. Nobody believes that. The problem is that solar doesn’t work at night and you’d end up having to build natural gas generation to supplement that. Palo Verde doesn’t emit carbon.”

“It’s all about Mr. Steyer making a name for himself, for his political ambitions and it’ll cost our customers millions and millions of dollars over the next decade or so.” 

Brandt’s spirit and desire to keep Palo Verde running stems from knowing he has a role to ensuring Arizona has their power. “Well, it’s a challenge, but we have to be there to meet people’s needs, whatever they need,” he said. “This is our home.”

To take a breather from work, Brandt says he loves escaping the heat and going to Flagstaff for a weekend. “I’ve always been in love since my early teens with the Grand Canyon and I was out there about six times before I ever came to live in Arizona. I have a special passion about the Grand Canyon and as a result of that, the company does.”

Brandt also has a deep passion for serving veterans and helping them transition from active duty to civilian life. One of every five of APS’s 6,400 employees is a veteran. “I was never in the military and sometimes I regret that,” he said. “From a business leader standpoint, I think we have a moral obligation to take care of these men and women when they come back after they serve. They were willing to put their lives at risk and many didn’t come back. The ones that do, they ought to have a job.”

Reflecting on his career, the executive gives this piece of advice for those looking to make their way in the business world, “Don’t give up learning and don’t give up trying. Being lucky a little bit doesn’t hurt, but that’s not enough. Get into a career that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, find another one because you only get to do this once and you aren’t going to be successful in something you don’t like.”

Morgan Carr

Graham Bosch

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