In the winter of 2015, three directors of a Connecticut electric company met with a potential acquirer: a determined Spanish utility executive named José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, who surprised them with a bold vision for America’s utility industry.
“He was very clear then that he saw the U.S. as having enormous potential in renewable energy,” said John Lahey, who was chair of the company, United Illuminating. “This guy six years ago was already way ahead of where the U.S. was.”
Galán clinched that deal for United Illuminating for $3 billion. His company, Iberdrola, is now poised, with a Danish partner, to begin constructing the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, in waters off Massachusetts. Overall, Iberdrola and its subsidiaries reach 24 U.S. states and have investments in countries from Britain to Brazil to Australia.
For the past 20 years, since he took over Iberdrola, based in Bilbao, Spain, with 37,000 employees, Galán has been on a mission to upend the electrical-utility industry, a fragmented collection of companies tied to aging coal- and oil-burning generators.