Skip to main content

NB Power needs to go 'outside' to find next CEO in order for true transformation critics say

The decision to oust NB Power CEO Keith Cronkhite came as a surprise to many, and has garnered some mixed reactions.

Liberal energy critic René Legacy suspects the crown corporation is doing 'damage control' and wonders if Cronkhite is the 'fall guy' after another difficult year for the utility.

"After Q3, the total debt for NB Power had increased by $95 million and their plan for this year was to reduce it by $81. So they’re $176 million off the mark and they had one quarter left to achieve it. And we already know for most of this quarter that Point Lepreau’s been down. So there is some factors that they weren’t going to achieve this target," he said.

Cronkhite was in the role for just over two years. A former vice-president, Lori Clark, has taken on the position of acting CEO while a search takes place for a permanent replacement.

Although, board chair Charles Firlotte said in an interview Monday he’s hopeful Clark will add her name to the mix.

"She’s massively talent and I would hope she will throw her hat in the ring. That will be up to her ultimately," he said. "She would be the first female in 100 years and in my humble opinion she has the skills and talents."

Energy and Climate Change Director for the Convervation Council of N.B., Louise Comeau, believes the board should look elsewhere.

"We need to go outside the NB power family, to bring in somebody with experience in the changes we’re talking about," she said. "In particular on the, how I would characterize, as the modern approach to managing electricity, with lots of renewable energy on the system."

Firlotte said this is about 'significant transformation,' to try and make NB Power profitable during a time of global energy change.

"NB Power has a need to transform from what it is, which is a traditional old monopoly, to an energy provider of the future that is efficient and responsive to customer needs," he said.

According to the province’s former auditor general, as of 2020, the crown corporation was $4.9 billion in debt. At that time, it was only paying off an average of $20 million each year, since 2013’s completion of Point Lepreau’s refurbishment.

And it has some expensive projects on the horizon, including the Mactaquac Dam refurbishment, expected to cost between $2.7 and $3.7 billion.

The pre-engineering phase is underway for that refurbishment, with work starting in 2025. It’s expected to last ten years.

There’s also the coal-fired Belledone Generating Station, which will have to cease operation in 2030. There is hope the facility could find a new purpose, but Legacy says he hasn’t heard of any real plans on the table.

Comeau is hoping the consulting firm hired to review the utility over the next several months will interview New Brunswickers, organizations and experts.

She says it’s possible to put a focus on environmental initiatives while keeping rates low.

"What I would hope for New Brunswickers is that they won’t accept the arguments that we can’t achieve environmental outcomes and have lower rates. It’s not true. We can do it. We can be more efficient. We can have lower bills. We can have non-polluting power," she said. Top Stories

Stay Connected