With one of the most diverse energy supply mixes in Canada, New Brunswick draws its power from a mix of nuclear, fossil fuels and renewables. Like many Canadian provinces, the bulk of generation, transmission and distribution is owned and operated by a vertically integrated provincial crown corporation, NB Power, which also purchases a limited amount of electricity from small independent power producers (IPPs). In total, NB Power owns and operates 3,513 MW consisting of hydro (7), diesel (3), nuclear (1), coal (1), and heavy fuel oil (1) facilities while IPPs own and operate wind farms, natural gas cogeneration plants and biomass facilities. Combined, the province’s generating assets currently total nearly 4,500 MW (NB Power, 2015). [i].
Originally an operator of hydroelectric facilities, NB Power began to diversify its supply mix in the 1930s, constructing several coal-fired and oil-fired generating stations to meet growing demand over the subsequent decades. Following the 1973 oil shock, NB Power moved forward with plans to develop nuclear power. The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station was commissioned in 1983 after facing significant technical and financial challenges [ii]. These continued after commissioning, most notably the long refurbishment process that took place between 2008 and 2012 that is estimated to have cost $2.4 billion [iii].
Electricity is a key driver of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Atlantic Canada, and New Brunswick is no exception. While its power system may be diverse, it is mainly comprised of fossil fuel and nuclear power, each with significant environmental footprints. It is currently the only Atlantic province on track to miss its 2020 reduction commitment of 10% below 1990 levels by a wide margin, in part due to its continued reliance on fossil fuels for electricity [iv].
The recently adopted target of 35-45% below 1990 levels, set at the 2015 annual conference of Eastern Provinces and New England Governors, is increasing pressure on Atlantic provinces to find renewable alternatives for electricity production [v] In New Brunswick, the drive to adopt renewables like wind and tidal power is underscored by the shortened life expectancy of the province’s largest hydro generating asset, the 668 MW Mactaquac dam, and the government’s objective of increasing its electricity exports and share of clean domestic energy.
[i] NB Power. 2015. Annual Report 2013-2014. Retrieved 20 Aug 2015 from https://www.nbpower.com/media/1602/d-html-en-about-publications-annual-2014_annual_report_en.pdf
[iii] Auditor General of New Brunswick. Chapter 2: Point Lepreau Generating Station Refurbishment – Phase II, Report of the Auditor General 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2016 from http://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/dam/agnb-vgnb/pdf/Reports-Rapports/2014V2/Chap2e.pdf
[iv] Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. 2015. Declining Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Atlantic Canada. Retrieved 29 Aug 2015 from https://www.apec-econ.ca/publications/view/?do-load=1&publication.id=256
[v] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2015a. New greenhouse gas targets set by eastern premiers, governors. (31 Aug 2015). Retrieved 1 Sept 2015 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-greenhouse-gas-targets-set-by-eastern-premiers-governors-1.3209847