Geneva utility CEO quits amid wind power scandal

The chief executive of Geneva’s public utility resigned after six years in the position on Thursday amid a scandal over tens of millions of francs invested in wind energy without producing any electricity.

Geneva utility CEO quits amid wind power scandal
Former CEO André Hurter: SIG chairman says utility lost 46 million francs over failed wind energy investments. Photo: SRF

At a hastily organized press conference, André Hurter, CEO of the Services industriels de Genève (SIG), announced that he was stepping down following “differences” with the utility’s chairman, Alain Peyrot.

Peyrot held Hurter responsible for serious “dysfunctions” in the utility’s wind energy business, the Tribune de Genève newspaper reported online.

“SIG invested 46 million (francs — $49 million) in wind projects in partnership with Ennova and that has not generated a megawatt of energy,” the chairman is quoted as saying.

Peyrot said the results of an external audit were severe and alarming and followed on the heels of an internal audit earlier in the year that was contested by Hurter.

Pierre Maudet, the Geneva cabinet minister responsible for SIG, ordered the external audit in June.

This audit exposed management problems with the utility’s wind project in the Jura region, concluding that SIG’s investment in Ennova was at risk to the tune of 46 million francs, SIG said.

Rather than further contest these conclusions, Hurter elected to resign.

Peyrot said the wind energy scandal “has nothing to do with our traditional activities, which we are in perfect control of”, the Tribune de Genève reported.

SIG decided to regroup all its wind energy projects in a new company called Ennova back in 2011.

With Geneva parliamentary and government elections coming up next month the issue threatens to become a political football.

SIG is 55 percent owned by the canton of Geneva, 30 percent owned by the city of Geneva and 15 percent owned by municipalities in the canton.

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