More transparency needed at NB Power to avoid Joi Scientific repeat, says political panel
Energy minister says balance needs to be struck between transparency and operational effectiveness
Improving transparency at NB Power was one of the highlights of this week's political panel, which included a wide ranging discussion on the crown corporation.
This comes after some controversial moves by the public utility, including the decision to invest in Joi Scientific.
The corporation poured $6.5 million into the Florida-based company, which claimed it had the technology to generate hydrogen gas from seawater to generate electricity on demand.
But it turned out the company hadn't perfected the technology on a large scale, putting the viability of the project in doubt.
NB Power does have to report some of the projects it funds to the Energy and Utilities board, but only if it exceeds a $50 million threshold.
Green Party leader David Coon said he doesn't think NB Power has enough oversight to avoid another Joi Scientific fiasco.
"What we've got to do is improve and strengthen the Electricity Act that guides NB Power and improve and strengthen the Energy Utility Support Act that guides the EUB," said Coon
Energy Minister Mike Holland said the $50 million threshold needs to be addressed to make the public utility more accountable, but warns that lowering it too far could have negative consequences.
"If we put them down to saying that they couldn't spend any more than $2 million without EUB approval, that would be a set of handcuffs that would make it very difficult," said Holland.
But Holland said he'd like borrow a private sector tactic to make NB Power more transparent, holding annual general meetings.
"So I'm trying to look at it, almost from like a private sector component, where the utility is accountable to the shareholder, with some form of a presentation similar to that."
Liberal MLA Benoit Bourque said there needs to be a higher degree of accountability and transparency, but even that won't completely erase the possibility of another Joi Scientific-style controversy.
"There's always an element of risk ... there is never a 100 per cent guarantee when it comes to these things," said Bourque.