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Top management goes in down sizing

In a management shake-up, SeaWest has down-sized, citing as reasons a decision by Californian regulators to re-evaluate wind bids under the BRPU, a lesser performance in the UK than expected, and the unexpected delay of a project in Spain.

A management shake up at wind plant developer SeaWest has been confirmed following three disappointments for the San Diego company. First, California regulators decided to re-evaluate wind bids in the state's recent renewables auction. Second, the company did not perform as well as expected in the UK government's recent order for renewables capacity. Third, a project in Spain has been unexpectedly delayed.

The new chief executive at SeaWest, Dino Pionzio, has not responded to requests for comment. But according to sources and to a published interview, Pionzio replaces former CEO, Ron Fawcett. Also axed are Bob Keegan, vice president of development, and senior vice president, Tom Farnham. About one-third of the firm's 150 employees are reportedly out. The firm says it is "down-sizing."

Pionzio told a newsletter, California Energy Markets (CEM), that company founder Chuck Davenport initiated the shake-up and installed Pionzio, a long-time friend and trusted business adviser who was at Kidder Peabody in project development for four years. No more lay-offs are expected.

"This is not a case of a frail developer needing year-to-year profitability to survive," he told CEM. "It was quite entirely a matter of results." SeaWest has developed $550 million in wind plants, totalling 360 MW in the last decade. But its fortunes have more recently lagged behind firms such as Kenetech and Zond. Pionzio described the decision of California power regulators to review all wind bids in the Biennial Resource Plan Update (BRPU) as a disappointment. But he told CEM he stands by SeaWest's bids using negative energy prices, high capacity prices and high capacity factors. The company "bid on the rules as written," he said and objections are "sour grapes" from unsuccessful competitors. Also disappointing is SeaWest's performance in the UK. Its joint venture together with UK and Japanese partners, Trigen, only secured a contract for 15 MW in Scotland. Pionzio also said the delay of a project in Spain had added to strains in management.

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