NB Power claims to be supplying New Brunswick with over 40 percent renewable energy but a local solar firm says that is not the case.
Megan McCann and Mark McCann are co-owners of MJM Solar Solutions. They have been advocating the use of renewable energy for over a decade. According to their analysis, NB Power is generating closer to 20 percent renewable energy in the province.
In their report that includes a solar plan for New Brunswick released today, MJM Solar Solutions points out that 13 percent of NB Power’s 37.1 percent renewable energy profile is biofuels.
“Biofuels are not a clean energy source,” said Megan McCann.
While some renewable energy advocates say that biofuels can play a role in the transition to a cleaner energy future, others note that biofuels can also be harmful, taking over large areas of land that was once used for food production and carbon storage. Others questioned whether biofuels actually cut greenhouse gas emissions. Burning biomass, as wood or as ethanol or biodiesel, emits carbon dioxide.
Garth Hood, owner of Thoughtful Dwellings, a consulting and design company that specializes in energy efficiency, agrees with McCann.
“All the research I’ve seen recently suggests it causes a lot more problems than it solves. It’s at best carbon-neutral, but it’s likely way worse because we’re degrading forests and until we put in place a system to guarantee sustainable forestry it’s likely going to make our forestry sector way worse,” said Hood.
According to Chris Rouse, a senior engineering technologist, “New Brunswick’s biofuels production is from waste products of the paper industry, and is not using trees directly.”
MJM Solar Solutions also take issue with the high percentage of imports that make up New Brunswick’s renewable energy profile. “NB Power says they are at 40 percent, but that is not in house, that’s not in province,” said McCann.
According to NB Power’s Communications Specialist Marc Belliveau, “We are due to refresh this info, but we currently have more than 40 percent renewable energy in the province.”
“In the coming years, we will certainly be adding even more renewable and clean energy. How and when is still a work in progress,” said Belliveau.
Biofuels are not the only clean energy source being scrutinized.
NB Power generates much of its renewable energy from the Mactaquac hydro-electric dam. According to Wolastoq Grand Chief Council Ron Tremblay, “NB Power did very little, if any, consultation with our people when our rivers were dammed.”
“Growing up in Tobique, we noticed that vegetation didn’t grow well around the hydro wires and transformers,” said Tremblay.
In recent years, people have mobilized against spraying glyphosate to kill vegetation not only after a clearcut to grow a softwood plantation but also around power lines.
Tremblay has other concerns with hydro dams: “Even the construction of a dam, how much concrete, how much lubricants are used in that system to open and shut the dams, the generating systems, the release of the radioactivity around dams, you can’t call that green. It’s impossible to call that a green source of energy.”
For MJM Solar Solutions, a cleaner energy future involves the sun.
MJM Solar Solutions is requesting signatures to a petition aimed at achieving a direct solar incentive for New Brunswickers to install solar. The petition reads: “New Brunswickers want a direct solar incentive to help with our climate targets, reduce power bills, stimulate new employment, financial security, and better preparedness for natural disasters.”
Cortney MacDonnell is an environmental action reporter with RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment), a research project based at the University of New Brunswick.