Danny Dumaresque, a former MHA and an outspoken advocate on electricity issues in the province, has “intervenor” status at the hearings, and today he’s anticipated to spend most of the day cross-examining Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin.
Nalcor is the parent company of NL Hydro, the province’s electricity generating and bulk-transmission utility.
Dumaresque has been loudly raising concerns about executive compensation at Nalcor Energy and bonuses paid out in 2014, the year when massive power outages known as “#DarkNL” left the province in the cold and without electricity for the better part of a week in January.
After presenting all the documents, as Dumaresque was starting to get underway with his questioning of Martin, NL Hydro stepped in to try to limit the scope of his questions, saying essentially that the issues raised are off-topic to the purpose for which he was granted intervenor standing at the hearings.
Board chairman Andy Wells gave Dumaresque a bit of rope to ask his questions, and said he’d see where things go.
Right off the bat, armed with the new documents presented Monday morning, Dumaresque was asking about a pay bump for the vice-president of NL Hydro.
In 2013, NL Hydro head Rob Henderson got paid $200,729.83 with a performance bonus of $23,733.26, for a total of $224,463.09.
A year later — the year of DarkNL — Handerson got paid $214,579.59, with a bonus of $36,261.75 for a total of $250,841.34.
That represents an 11 per cent increase.
Martin explained that the performance bonuses are about more than just electricity reliability. For example, he said in 2014 NL Hydro had “the best year in its history” when it comes to worker safety with zero loss-time due to injuries, and Martin said that makes up part of the performance contract.
Dumaresque fired back that NL Hydro’s safety record is, “Pretty cold comfort to the families of the three people who died during DarkNL.”
At that point Wells stepped in, telling Dumaresque to cut out the editorialization, and stick to just asking questions.
Over the course of the morning, Dumaresque went back and forth between asking questions about minutia in a myriad of documents on file with the PUB, and then flaring up into theatrical and forceful questions of Martin, demanding to know why specific decisions were made by the energy corporation.
Aside from the opening salvo about the executive pay schemes, most of the day was spent focusing on the 120 megawatt combustion turbine which NL Hydro bought second-hand in the wake of the DarkNL crisis, and was was installed earlier this year.
Dumaresque pressed Martin about why NL Hydro didn’t get an independent third-party assessment of the fair-market value for such a turbine. Martin said that they bought the equipment by tender with multiple bidders.
“It doesn’t get any fairer than that,” Martin said.
Dumaresque’s line of questioning implied that there were other, cheaper, more reliable options for buying a power plant similar to the combustion turbine, but NL Hydro ignored those options.
The Public Utilities Board hearings are looking at increasing electricity rates in the province; NL Hydro is asking the PUB to approve a 2.8 per cent hike on Newfoundland rates, and a 1.9 per cent increase for customers on the Labrador grid; the rate hike would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015.