For a brighter future of environmental and economic sustainability, we need to act now on our future energy sources. Government energy policy, funding and resources must focus on efficient energy use and developing renewable energy sources, particularly for electricity generation.
We are very concerned about two companies that have set up offices in Saint John to develop non-renewable energy projects: ARC Nuclear Canada and Moltex Energy. Both companies are moving forward to design and construct separate types of small modular nuclear reactors with possible construction of prototype reactors to begin in 2028. They recently announced they are looking for more money.
The Government of New Brunswick has already invested a total of $10 million ($5 million to each company). In addition, NB Power, a corporation owned by the NB government, has invested an unknown amount in these companies. ARC Nuclear Canada recently disclosed their attempt to secure $20 million in funding from the Government of Canada. At press time, the government of NB is expected to make an announcement confirming the federal funding.
If non-renewable energy projects such as these small modular nuclear reactors have any realistic economic merit, they can and will be funded by private investors.
High profile and speculative non-renewable energy projects that require large amounts of public funding threaten the progress of transitioning to a renewable energy future. They divert investment away from renewables and conservation.
The benefits of renewable energy are obvious. The fuels for renewable energy (sunshine and light from the sun, wind, moving water, and thermal heat from the earth) are all free and inflation-proof into the future. Renewable energy production produces no toxic waste materials, C02 or air pollution. Many renewable energy generation projects can be constructed and be producing a stream of cash and clean electricity in less than five years.
Currently, wind power is the cheapest form of electricity generation at about 3.5 cents per kw hour, and the cost continues to drop with greater efficiency and new technological developments. In most cases, wind projects can be up and running in less than three years, producing both electricity and cash.
Our government needs to expand, build and improve on energy conservation and efficiency programs to assist homeowners, particularly those on lower incomes, to upgrade their homes, reduce their cost of living and improve their communities. Expanded and improved energy conservation and efficiency programs are also required for small businesses, public facilities and rental housing. Energy efficiency and conservation programs have huge potential to create employment in many building trades and economic activity in communities.
It is important that provincial funding and federal energy dollars to New Brunswick be directed to renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs. These should not play second fiddle to speculative, non-renewable nuclear energy projects.
David Thompson is a member of Leap4wards in Saint John, NB.