New Brunswick releases energy strategy

19 December 2023

The government of New Brunswick in Canada has released its strategy on how to transition the province to clean energy, while ensuring affordability and economic growth. “Powering our Economy and the World with Clean Energy – Our Path Forward to 2035” includes a 12-year road map and supporting strategies for the province to meet national and international clean energy transition targets.

“We have a generational opportunity in front of us, to change the way we use energy to live and work, that will lead to a cleaner environment, more economic growth and, most importantly, an affordable and secure energy supply," said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. “Our energy strategy balances addressing climate change with the growing energy needs and demands from all users in our province.”

“Climate change and the need to move away from greenhouse gas-emitting fuels are creating a global energy transition,” said Natural Resources & Energy Development Minister Mike Holland. “Our actions will collectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half by 2035, putting us well on our way to achieving a net-zero economy and creating new economic opportunities and prosperity for our province.”

The strategy focuses on four areas: affordability, energy security & reliability, regulatory reform, and economic growth. It calls for;

  • a significant increase in the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar; 
  • more carbon-free baseload nuclear generation with small modular reactors (SMRs) to ensure the province’s energy grid has enough power to meet peak demand; 
  • developing new energy sources, such as hydrogen and biofuels; and increasing energy conservation and efficiency efforts.

The strategy outlines how the energy landscape will transition, how the energy mix will change and the actions needed as well as the economic opportunities being created. It also looks at the impact the transition will have on how New Brunswickers think about and use energy. It outlines actions and requirements to meet federally regulated 2035 clean electricity and climate goals. An energy transition working group will be established. It will engage with First Nations and key stakeholders to ensure their input is considered in the development of initiatives and plans.

The strategy calls for the addition of 600 MWe of capacity at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generation Station by 2035, doubling New Brunswick's current nuclear capacity. The government says it will work with utility plant operator NB Power "to enable the establishment of a partnership with another nuclear operator to improve performance, lower operational risk and lower cost". NB Power earlier this year published its own strategic plan highlighting the need to phase out coal by 2030 and achieve net-zero electricity supply by 2035.

The roadmap included in the strategy report expects the first 150 MWe of SMR capacity to come online in 2030-2031, with another 450 MWe starting up in 2035. In July, NB Power, in partnership with SMR developer ARC Clean Technology Canada, submitted an environmental impact assessment registration document and an application for a site preparation licence for an SMR at Point Lepreau. The deployment of the ARC-100 sodium-cooled fast reactor in New Brunswick and is part of a joint strategic plan on SMR development and deployment released in 2022by the governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta.

Higgs said his government will try to balance the cost of new energy sources with the ability for citizens to afford the expected additional expenses. He warned that it will be a "difficult" endeavour that will require help from Ottawa. "Is it going to be easy? No it's not," he told a news conference. "We have to balance affordability and the reliability, and … ensure that at the end of the day we don't put more and more hardship on the citizens to a point where they just can't afford to live and work in our province. Are we on a path to higher energy costs? Absolutely. I mean that path was set 10 years ago, I would say, by the federal government."

Holland told the press conference that the province is familiar with the costs associated with wind and hydroelectricity, but said the cost for bringing SMRs up to the anticipated capacity remains unknown.

"We will be looking to the federal government to assist and join us in funding some of the projects, some of the research," he noted. Holland said the province will lean more heavily on energy from wind and small nuclear reactors to decarbonise its economy. The first SMR should be operational by 2031 and the second in 2035, he added.

Opposition leaders described the energy plan as superficial. Green Leader David Coon said doubling the amount of nuclear capacity … “means we’re going to double the debt, double the rates, because it is the most expensive form of electricity on the planet”. Liberal Leader Susan Holt commended the government for bringing in a document that considers different sources of electricity but said it lacks specifics. “Half of it was a review of the past and what was forward-looking was thin, short on details, short on figures, or any commitment to timeline,” she said.

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