Brandt wants SaskPower to catalyze renewable energy industry by favouring local firms

Posted on July 12, 2017 in

Brandt wants SaskPower to catalyze renewable energy industry by favouring local firms
Brandt Group of Companies president Shaun Semple David Stobbe / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

The head of Saskatchewan’s largest privately-held company wants the province’s electrical utility to favour local firms, including his, as it works to boost Saskatchewan’s reliance on alternative energy sources to 50 per cent from the current 25 per cent during the next 13 years.

Brandt Group of Companies president Shaun Semple said a “local preference” in SaskPower’s procurement process could support not just his firm’s plan to build a wind turbine factory in Saskatoon’s former Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Canada factory, but an entire industry in the province.

“Government procurement is not the solution, but it can be the seed, right? It can be the catalyst that starts an industry growing,” said Semple, just over three months after Brandt bought the sprawling 58th Street East factory for an undisclosed price and unveiled plans to fill the vacant facility with up to 500 of its employees.

The Regina-based company has already spent about $4 million on assessment, cleaning and refurbishment, and hired about 50 people to work at the massive facility. Semple said that total — Brandt currently has “just over” 2,000 employees — is expected to climb to about 100 by the end of the year, and could hit 300 by the end of 2018.

In addition to the turbine factory, the plant is expected to house elements of the company’s agricultural and custom manufacturing divisions, as well as research and development facilities, he said. Brandt does not disclose its finances, but Semple has said previously the purchase is part of a plan to boost its $1.7 billion revenue to $5 billion by 2025.

“We’re at the beginning stages of our industry on wind and alternate energy (sources), and if we don’t give the preference in the scorecards and use the procurement of SaskPower as a catalyst to develop it, it won’t happen and this plant will never see its full capability,” Semple said.

The Crown corporation’s procurement policy states its purchases must “obtain best value” for its money, ensure everyone is treated fairly, meet its operational requirements, comply with the province’s trade obligations, maintain “the highest ethical business standards” and support the development of Saskatchewan’s economy, including Aboriginal businesses.

SaskPower representatives were not available for interviews, but a spokesman for the Crown corporation said in a statement that it is “working closely with Priority Saskatchewan to ensure our procurement processes find the best value for our company.”

Priority Saskatchewan is a branch of SaskBuilds aimed at ensuring government procurement is fair and open.

“SaskPower procures goods and services in a fair and transparent public tendering process … We would look forward to any bid from (the Brandt) organization,” Jonathan Tremblay said in the statement.

While a homegrown wind turbine industry could have “huge” economic benefits for Brandt and other local companies, it’s vital that the government balance the need to support Saskatchewan businesses against the benefits of open competition, said North Saskatchewan Business Association executive director Keith Moen.

“We still are taxpayers and we want to see our government act prudently and judiciously in awarding their contracts, and whenever you can have that connection of it being a Saskatchewan company that gets the contract it’s a win-win. But it isn’t always a win-win because … we don’t want them to spend money frivolously.”

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