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NB presents its new energy strategy

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Blaine Higgs, accompanied by Minister Mike Holland, unveiled New Brunswick's energy strategy on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 in Fredericton.

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Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from 'a written text.

The Higgs government is counting heavily on the development of small nuclear reactors and wind power to achieve carbon neutrality.

In its roadmap presented Wednesday morning, New Brunswick details how the province intends to act to decarbonize its network by 2035, in accordance with federal objectives.

Currently the province is very dependent on fossil fuels as well as electricity imports from other provinces. The electricity used in New Brunswick in 2022 comes 35% from imports, 24% from fossil fuels such as oil or coal, 22% from renewable sources and 19% from nuclear.

The government of Blaine Higgs recognizes that the challenge is great: it must diversify its production sources, stop the use of fossil fuels while increasing its production capacity by around 60% to meet the expected increase in electricity demand.

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In its strategy, the government is announcing few new developments. It continues to bet on small modular reactors (SMR), the technology of which is still in development and has not yet been proven. The costs are also still not precisely known. According to the government, the first small nuclear reactor should come into service at Pointe Lepreau by 2031, the second in 2035.

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Artist's drawing representing the installations planned by Moltex at Pointe Lepreau.

By this date, the province hopes that nearly 38% of its production will come from nuclear power, a percentage which would only be tenable if the two SMRs are actually in operation by this date.

The government says it has complete confidence that this technology will be functional. If it's not sustainable [by 2035], the whole world has a problem, added Mike Holland, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development.

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Mike Holland, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development, announced his roadmap for the province's energy transition at a press conference on Wednesday.

To increase its energy production, New Brunswick also plans to increase the number of wind farms on land and at sea. It plans to triple energy production from this energy source. In 2035, it could represent 23% of the energy mix, the second source of energy behind nuclear power.

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According to its forecasts, the first acquisitions of wind energy will be made in 2027, the first exports of hydrogen will not be possible until 2028 at the earliest and the installation of small modular reactors is planned for 2030.

If the government's strategy works as planned, New Brunswick's dependence on electricity imports from other provinces should decrease, but not disappear. The province would always need its neighbors. According to government projections, it should represent 19% of the energy mix.

If New Brunswick and Nova Scotia refused the loop Atlantic, the mega interprovincial energy transmission project wanted by Ottawa, a similar but modified project should still see the light of day.

Quebec would be excluded of the project and connections would only be made between the Maritime provinces.

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The first stage, which is to be commissioned in 2027-2028, would connect Salisbury in New Brunswick to Onslow in Nova Scotia. The following year, a transmission line between Salisbury and Pointe Lepreau would be inaugurated to be able to supply its neighbor with electricity from nuclear power.

In a Thirdly, Memramcook would be connected to Borden in Prince Edward Island by 2030.

Nova Scotia is also expected to receive electricity from the Muskrat Falls mega hydroelectric project in Labrador via the Maritime Link. While this link is already in operation, it has only minimal impact at the moment due to setbacks with the Muskrat Falls Dam.

On paper, both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island could therefore benefit from this clean energy by 2030 if the Labrador project operates at full capacity by that date.

During the presentation of his roadmap, Blaine Higgs reminded several times that the province is sitting on a considerable reserve of natural gas. By natural gas, the Prime Minister means shale gas, a natural resource that has been the subject of a moratorium in New Brunswick for almost ten years.

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A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing has existed in New Brunswick since 2014. In the image, workers from Pennsylvania work at the site of a Chesapeake Energy company well, near Burlington, on April 23, 2010.

He assured that he does not intend to reopen this moratorium, but believes that shale gas should be seen as an opportunity for the province to green its electricity more quickly if the issue of electricity affordability becomes an issue for New Brunswick.

Is this part of this roadmap? No. Is this a potential that we have in New Brunswick that others may not have and that we should think about? Of course.

A quote from Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick

The Prime Minister believes that if a new technology were to emerge we should probably look again at how it is possible to use this resource.

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