Hydro head Jennifer Williams tapped as interim CEO of Nalcor Energy
Fate of Crown corporation remains unclear as replacement made for retiring Stan Marshall
Jennifer Williams, the president of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, is taking the reins of Crown parent corporation Nalcor on an interim basis, the provincial government announced Thursday.
Williams will become interim chief executive officer of Nalcor Energy on June 15, when Stan Marshall retires.
Marshall stepped in as head of the energy corporation in 2016, largely to bring the troubled Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject to completion. Soon after taking over Nalcor, Marshall called Muskrat Falls a "boondoggle," as the project to generate power on Labrador's Churchill River has gone significantly over budget and taken far longer to complete than estimated. The project is still not online.
In her first news conference Thursday, Williams said she is looking forward to the challenge of an expanded role.
"I feel good, I'm excited to take this on.… I loved every challenge and I'm really looking forward to digging in," she said.
"We all have seen the budget, and what the government does expect of us. We've got some significant fiscal realities to face. So that's made very clear."
Williams said her top priority as CEO will be to oversee the completion of the Muskrat Falls project before moving on to the future of the Crown corporation.
"We all know that this has to come on stream and be viable before we make any decisions about the rest of the system," she said. "We will determine what the right solution is going forward. The organization will be streamlined. We have to do our part with regards to the fiscal realities that are facing the province."
Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons said Williams had been on his radar to lead Nalcor for some time, as he said it was generally known within the provincial government that Marshall's retirement was looming.
"We did need someone to come in to lead Nalcor as we move forward into the future, and there's no one better than Jennifer Williams," Parsons told reporters Thursday morning. "I'm extremely excited, extremely pleased that she's agreed to take this on. She's capable, she's competent. She's got the history there."
On top of her new role, Williams will remain as president of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
Because Williams is taking on the dual roles, there will be a combining of the salaries.
The base salary for the Nalcor CEO is $525,000, while for the president of NL Hydro it's $285,000, according to a Nalcor spokesperson.
With Williams taking the combined role, there will be a base salary savings of $415,000, according to the spokesperson, which will be shared between the two organizations. The spokesperson said Williams will not receive a bonus from either organization.
Nalcor future up in the air
Williams steps into an interim role with a Crown corporation whose very future is in doubt. The premier's economic recovery team report issued last month called for Nalcor to be effectively dissolved, by folding it into its key subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
On Thursday, Parsons said that option is on the table.
"When you have something that is so legally and financially complex, it's not just like you can come in and chop it or throw it around. You can't do that. There's some complexities that need to be taken in mind, and [Williams] will definitely be a part of that," he said.
"I think the conversation we're having is that Nalcor, their big focus obviously over the past few years has been Muskrat Falls. That project is near completion.… Once that's done, when we're focusing inward across government about what do we need to do different, we got to have it with Nalcor too."
Parsons said the search for a permanent CEO has been put on hold due to Nalcor's uncertain future.
Williams said she looks forward to working with government to see how Nalcor can be streamlined. While not committing to saying there will be job losses, she said she sees maintaining her role at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro while taking over Nalcor — which employs about 1,600 people in the province, she said — as the beginning of the process.
"Today was the first step, taking this dual role.… This is a job loss," said Williams
With files from Mark Quinn