In any emerging industry, there are turning points that bear watching. One of those occurred Tuesday when BrightSource Energy, a California developer of solar power plants, announced the appointment of John E. Bryson as its new chair.
Bryson is a key player in the energy-enviro-regulatory industrial complex, and a member in good standing of the Fortune 500 whose decision to join BrightSource is another signal that Big Solar will be a Big Thing.
A co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970, Bryson went on to become chair and chief executive of Edison International, one of the United States’ largest utilities. He also serves on the boards of Boeing and Disney, as well as the Santa Monica electric car startup Coda Automotive. He is also an advisor to New York private equity and buyout giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Before going corporate, Bryson was president of the California Public Utilities Commission and California State Water Resources Control Board.
In short, Bryson, 67, is someone who knows his way around the top echelons of the nation’s energy and financial power structure.
Such connections will be key for BrightSource. The company has so far signed contracts to supply more than 2,600 megawatts of electricity to California utilities PG&E and Southern California Edison. It will need to secure many billions of dollars in financing to build more than a dozen large-scale solar power plants to fulfill those deals.
The California Energy Commission on Wednesday is expected to license BrightSource’s first solar project, a 370-megawatt power plant to be built in Southern California’s Ivanpah Valley.
Bryson will serve as non-executive chair, meaning he will not have operational control over the company. A BrightSource spokesperson, though, told me Bryson “intends to be a very active board chair.”
BrightSource has shown itself adept at developing strategic relationships. It counts Google, Morgan Stanley, and Chevron as its investors and brought on engineering giant Bechtel as the chief contractor to build its first power plant as well as to take a stake in the project.