Frank Cassidy, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Power, received a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award during the annual Fall Awards ceremony held on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Cassidy, of Little Silver, graduated from Newark College of Engineering (NCE) in 1969 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. NCE grew into NJIT in 1975 with the addition of the New Jersey School of Architecture.
Cassidy deals in power. As president and chief operating officer of PSEG Power, he is helping to supply electricity to millions of customers from Maine to the Carolinas, and as far west as Indiana. A highly successful competitive energy supplier, PSEG Power owns and operates some 20 generating facilities. New plants are under construction in Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and New York.
Based in Newark, New Jersey, PSEG Power is a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group, the diversified energy firm that includes Public Service Electric and Gas Company and PSEG Global. The subsidiary Cassidy heads is on the forward edge of an industry that has seen fundamental change since the lifting of decades-old regulations circumscribing the generation and sale of electric power in the United States.
“This business is a very different entity compared to when I started more than 30 years ago,” Cassidy says. That was in 1969, right after he his degree at NCE. Initially assigned to forecasting the demand for electricity, Cassidy moved on to posts of increasing responsibility at Public Service Electric and Gas. He served as general manager-corporate performance and general manager-transmission before being elected a vice president. In 1999, he was named to his current position with PSEG Power. “Competitive power providers are responsible for 80 percent of all the generating capacity added in the past decade,” Cassidy emphasizes. “But while there have been many successes, there have also been missteps, and the industry is facing problems that we have to fix now or suffer the consequences of an unreliable electric power supply.”
One of the most serious problems in Cassidy’s view is the credit worthiness of many industry participants. The sluggish economy and mismanagement of some providers in recent years have greatly restricted access to capital, which could put the development of critical new generating capacity on hold.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Cassidy has advocated a multi-faceted strategy for resolving what he says are the most difficult financial challenges that he can remember in his long career. Congress can help by giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a mandate to establish well-designed regional electricity markets across the country, accelerating the depreciation of generation assets to match other industries, and reforming bankruptcy laws so that sound companies do not suffer when trading partners become insolvent.
Environmental issues also loom large for the power industry these days. Cassidy says that constructive dialogue is essential at every level if the private and public sectors are to work together effectively to address these issues. He points out that for more than a decade PSEG has been proactive on this front, engaged with the power industry, government, the academic community and other organizations to promote a comprehensive, economically responsible national policy on the environment.
Speaking at the recent Conference on Climate Solutions for the Northeast in Hartford, Connecticut, Cassidy said, “Many in the industry share PSEG’s view that improved environmental performance and reductions in the emissions of pollutants most associated with the industry – nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury – are justified by public health concerns and the availability of new technologies that make emissions reductions feasible and achievable.” Cassidy favors an environmental policy that establishes precise targets and timetables for reducing these emissions, and which includes a well-conceived mandatory program for limiting greenhouse gases linked to global warming. He believes that this will serve environmental progress while providing his industry with the framework necessary for sound investment decisions.
But in speaking about the environmental choices facing society and the power industry, Cassidy looks beyond technology and the ledger book. As he said at the Hartford conference, making the right technical and business choices today will help to ensure that future generations can “ski in Vermont, enjoy the sun and surf at the Jersey Shore and experience the beauty of a crisp autumn afternoon in Connecticut.”