Manitoba Hydro taps engineer who worked for private energy, forestry firms to serve as new CEO

Manitoba Hydro has tapped a power engineer who’s worked for private energy and forestry companies to serve as its new chief executive officer.

Allan Danroth, who currently serves as the vice-president of wood pulp producer Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, will assume the reins of Hydro on Aug. 6, board chair Ben Graham announced Tuesday in Winnipeg.

Danroth joins Manitoba Hydro at a time when the provincial Crown corporation faces multiple challenges.

It must spend billions in the coming decades on repairs to its aging hydroelectric dams, transmission towers and distribution lines, as well as billions more to double or triple its existing 6,100-megawatt generating capacity in order to meet a growing demand for electricity produced without the combustion of fossil fuels.

At the same time, Hydro already spends almost $1 billion a year to service nearly $25 billion worth of total debt and faces political pressure from Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew’s NDP government to keep rates from rising.

Speaking to reporters at Hydro’s downtown Winnipeg headquarters, Danroth said he appreciates a job that comes with challenges.

“I’ve carved out a bit of a career for myself in terms of taking on some very difficult assignments,” Danroth said. “This is one of those things that I feel like I can lend some expertise to and add some value and facing these challenges — I mean, I think it’s exciting.”

The incoming Hydro CEO declined to get into specifics regarding future moves by Hydro or how he will manage political pressure from the Kinew government, which has emphasized low power rates as its most important priority for Hydro.

Danroth will follow Hal Turner, who served as Hydro’s interim CEO after the NDP-appointed Hydro board dismissed PC appointee Jay Grewal in February. 

Under Grewal’s leadership, Hydro planned to partner with private energy companies to increase wind power generation in Manitoba, a province that has lagged behind most others when it comes to wind power.

While Hydro board chair Graham and the Kinew government initially promised wind power plants would be built without private help, both have softened their positions.

A woman speaks at a podium.
Jay Grewal was dismissed as Manitoba Hydro’s CEO in February. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

On Tuesday, Graham would not rule out private partnerships playing some role in a new Manitoba energy strategy that is slated to be made public before the end of September.

Graham also would not rule out a short-term Manitoba reliance on more natural gas-fired power plants until Hydro builds up more green energy capacity.

Hydro warned the government last year it is facing an energy capacity crunch and is already unable to connect all new industrial electricity users to Manitoba’s power grid. Grewal then confirmed the province could face a shortage of power as soon as 2029.

“We have to look at breaking it up into buckets of implementation and when that power can come online. So we’re going to look at every single option possible,” Graham said.

Danroth’s resume includes Capital Power, a publicly traded independent power producer based in Edmonton. His role included running the Genessee power station, a 1,300-megawatt natural gas plant southwest of the Alberta capital.

The incoming Hydro CEO also worked New Brunswick pulp and paper producer AV Nackawic, Edmonton-based pulp producer Alberta-Pacific and “other energy, resource and health-care companies,” Hydro said in a statement.

Danroth said he is moving to Winnipeg before he begins work at Hydro in August.

Neither the governing NDP nor the opposition PCs chose to comment on Danroth’s hiring.