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Capital Power CEO Brian Vaasjo (John Ulan/©John Ulan/Epic Photogaphy Inc.)
Capital Power CEO Brian Vaasjo (John Ulan/©John Ulan/Epic Photogaphy Inc.)

At the top

Powering up from public utility to private enterprise Add to ...

You are tying performance reviews to certain leadership behaviours, such as coaching. What are some others?

True leaders support company policies; if things are happening in the organization, they are communicating it down to people. They are mentoring.

Another thing: Managers tend to step down and do your job if you are not doing it well. They tend not to put a bright line between what you are doing and they are doing. But if you are not doing your job right, instead of compensating for your shortfall, they should be working with you to get it right.

So preventing people from overscoping their job downwards is extremely important. Ten to 20 per cent of the activities in an organization are just that. It can be that there isn't a clear definition of roles and responsibilities.

Are there role models for this kind of transition?

None have come to my attention. A lot of it is basic good management. You know what good leadership is. And if you get good leadership from 150 people, you're going to increase the productivity of the other 1,000 by 30 per cent. You get a massive payoff.

And you can't approach it by saying: "Let's fix processes and not fix culture," or "Let's fix structure and not fix processes." You have to do them all pretty much at the same time, or you're just not going to get there. You throw all the cards up in the air instead of just a few at a time.

Because of the IPO, everyone here is dislodged a little bit, and so you already have a little bit of a momentum for change. Our challenge would be significantly greater if we were just sitting here.

Are you a green company?

We are an environmentally responsible company. But the route to a lower-carbon world will not happen over a short period. Most of the world is driven by carbon and 70 per cent of the power in Alberta comes from carbon. It is going to be a very significant power-generating fuel source for a long time.

Our view is we should be putting money into technology, into things such as carbon capture and storage. But there are also smaller initiatives such as putting monitoring equipment the size of a bread box on the stack of our Genesee plant [a coal-fired facility in Alberta] which has dropped CO{-2} emissions by 2 per cent.

Green power generation is good and it has a role, but you're not going to see where 50 per cent of North American power is green. It's just not going to happen. We're a coal generator and we're not of a mind to try to wrap ourselves in green.

But we are going to be doing renewable projects and we are involved in calls for clean energy in Ontario and B.C. Out of those, we're hopeful to see big wind projects for us. Twenty per cent of our actual power generated last year was from green and renewable sources. It's not that we're just talking - we're doing a heck of a lot.

Are you going to make some growth moves soon?

We've got a lot of irons in the fire. You can never perfectly predict when some of these things might happen. But I'd be very disappointed if something didn't happen this year that would be newsworthy.

In acquisitions?

Or on the development side. The absolute stretch case is $30-billion [in assets] If we can move the organization from a leadership standpoint, and if the right deals and opportunities are there, we should be able to meet that. But we're not going to force that to happen. If valid opportunities aren't there, we are not going to be pushing it.

Brian Vaasjo

Title: President and CEO, Capital Power Corp., Edmonton

Born: August, 1955 in Edmonton

Education: Bachelor's degree and MBA, University of Alberta

Career highlights:

Spent 19 years with the Enbridge group of companies, where he rose to senior management.

Joined Epcor Utilities in 1998 as executive vice-president and chief financial officer. Led Epcor's initial public offering of debentures and preferred shares. Rose to chief operating officer of Epcor, as well as president of Epcor Power L.P.

2009: Became president of newly created Capital Power, which has 1,000 employees and 31 power facilities in Canada and the United States.


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