Commission urges ban of baseboard heaters

NEW BRUNSWICK - New Brunswick's Energy Commission released its first recommendations, including a proposed ban on electric baseboard heaters in all new homes in the province and a price hike for existing electric baseboard customers.

The two-member energy commission recently completed a tour of the province and is in the process of building a 10-year energy strategy for New Brunswick.

Jeannot Volpe, a former Tory Energy and Finance minister, and Bill Thompson, a former deputy minister of Energy in the Lord government, released their preliminary report and said the demand for electric heat is strangling NB Power.

They argued the provincial utility is being forced to maintain and operate inefficient fossil fuel generators, such as Coleson Cove, to meet the needs of New Brunswickers on a few bitterly cold days a year and it comes at an enormous cost.

Volpe and Thompson recommended the cost of electricity be increased for the 60 per cent of New Brunswick residents who use electric heat, and that electric baseboard heaters be banned in all new construction.

"We actually had people tell us — a lot of people told us — that baseboard heating should go," said Thompson.

Other sources of heat are readily available, he said. "Our geography gives us an advantage for accessing clean and renewable power from Hydro-Quebec and new developments in Newfoundland and Labrador and connects us to the markets supplying New England, which is driven by natural gas."

The attack on electric heat is the most controversial of the 49 recommendations made by the commission. It also recommended government find a way to fix pricing problems with natural gas, and that the powers of the Energy and Utilities Board be beefed up.

Interim Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau criticized the vagueness of the recommendations.

"Like many other sectors I think we're going to have to wait for the final report to really get a clear picture, a clear vision of where this government wants to go in terms of energy," he said.

The commission said it wants public feedback on its proposed recommendations before submitting a final report in May, which the Alward government has promised will form the basis of sweeping new energy policies.


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