John W. Rowe, the former chairman of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., died Sept. 24 at the age of 77. He led Exelon from its formation in 2000 through the completion of its acquisition of Constellation Energy in 2012.
Rowe previously held CEO positions at the New England Electric System and Central Maine Power Co., served as general counsel of Consolidated Rail Corp., and was a partner in the law firm of Isham, Lincoln & Beale. He also was a past chairman of Edison Electric Institute.
In a 2012 profile by the New York Times, Rowe was credited with fixing what the newspaper called “Exelon’s array of broken-down nuclear-power reactors” and pushing through a deregulation agenda that left the company better off “at the cost of giving the public less say in what customers pay.” He also moved Smart Grid legislation through the Illinois state legislature and put together the $8 billion purchase of Constellation Energy.
At the time, he was no champion of renewable energy resources. The profile quoted him as saying, “A dinosaur cannot save itself from extinction by mating with a rodent.”
Rowe also advocated for letting market forces work to move the generation fleet toward clean energy. In a November 2011 keynote address at the Bipartisan Policy Center, he said “Letting the market work, not imposing new mandates and subsidies, is the right way to transition the electricity generation fleet to clean energy while maintaining reliability and affordability.”
Rowe held undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif. He also received that university’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He also was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Wisconsin, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Drexel University, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Bryant College, Thomas College and Dominican University.
In his 2011 keynote, Rowe reflected on his 28-year career and credited his success as a utility executive on an “unflagging commitment to continuous learning,” a personal appreciation and regard for the people who make up the organization, and what he termed “leading somewhere worth going.”
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