“Doing nothing is going to cost more”: transitioning to a low-carbon economy in New Brunswick

Written by Lauren R. Korn on May 12, 2019

Kent Hills Wind Farm in Elgin, NB. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New Brunswick’s “Canadian Energy Watchdog” Chris Rouse presented his Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) on May 9 to a nearly packed house at the Wilmot Church sanctuary in Fredericton. His presentation, “A Sustainable Business Case for the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy in New Brunswick,” followed reminders that climate change has already reached the province—coastal erosion, flooding, and storm surge events have been a reality for some time now.

Rouse, of New Clear Free Solutions in Summerville, said his methodology relies on modelling from NB Power and the Pan Canadian Wind Integration study, as well as his own, and was reviewed and verified by UNB Saint John Associate Professor of Economics, Dr. Rob Moir.

His presentation examined the business case for public investment of the Climate Change Fund revenue through NB Power into renewables, efficiency, and fuel-switching, with a goal of transitioning 95% of the province’s total energy needs to renewables by 2040.

Rouse stressed that his long-term plan guarantees “low rates, clean energy, and profitable power.” The IRP utilizes “least cost” environmental, social, and economic principles, based on the three pillars of sustainability (planet, people, and profit), and requires no new legislation or technology to implement. It relies heavily on public investment and the compound interest accrued over the course of the 20-year transition period. The plan seeks not only to serve NB shareholders and ratepayers but also to eliminate NB Power’s debt, currently at 95% according to Rouse.

Rouse encouraged attendees to consider his presentation as an NB Power shareholders meeting. He routinely asked for feedback and engaged for nearly an hour in a post-presentation Q&A. Skepticism of the plan seemed to centre on investment sources and the scale at which the IRP could realistically be implemented.

The plan requires the public to continually reinvest the income from its investments. This would provide all the capital needed to transition NB to a low-carbon economy. Savings would come from displacing fossil fuels and purchased power, increased sales from fuel-switching of the automotive and industrial sectors to electricity, as well as increased revenue from efficiency investments. The efficiency investments would generate $1.8 billion in net earnings over the next 10 years, providing the economic infrastructure for the transition.

The alternative, efficiency subsidies, will cause NB Power to lose nearly $700M over that same period. “Doing nothing,” said Rouse, “is actually going to cost [us] more.”

When asked if his plan could be implemented on a larger, global scale, Rouse said only that he was certain the province holds enough resources to implement the plan sustainably.

Rouse asked attendees to sign a form letter to Gaëtan Thomas, NB Power’s President and CEO; the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board; and Premier Blaine Higgs. The letter requested they support an update of NB Power’s current IRP to include a publicly-funded investment in line with 2015’s Paris Agreement.

Climate action continued in Fredericton the next day, May 10, with a climate strike outside the New Brunswick Legislature.

This article was updated to correct the figure of $1.8 billion net earnings from efficiency investments.

Lauren R. Korn is a researcher on the RAVEN project and a graduate student at the University of New Brunswick.

Comments are closed.