"Providing low and stable energy prices while fostering a strong energy sector is vital to our government's plan to rebuild New Brunswick," Alward said. "During the last two years, our government has worked with New Brunswickers and our utility to rebuild an energy sector that was fractured and in disarray.Â”
Alward highlighted many achievements in support of the energy sector, including:
-- The development of New Brunswick's first comprehensive energy policy in a decade
-- The lowest electricity rates in Atlantic Canada, with another year of a rate freeze ahead
-- The record profitability and new culture of performance at NB Power
-- An innovative and environmentally sensitive solution to the issue of high industrial electricity rates
-- Significant rate decreases for natural gas customers and -- The establishment of aggressive renewable energy targets.
The New Brunswick Energy Blueprint, released in the fall of 2011, establishes a 10-year vision for energy in New Brunswick. It includes 20 action items to enable the provincial government to take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges by relying on sound business practices and responsible management. These action items will be implemented by the end of 2014.
"Our blueprint laid out a plan that would provide low and stable electricity rates for New Brunswickers, not just through the rate freeze, but for the long term,Â” said Alward. Â“During the past year, we have been working on all 20 action items, and we are seeing significant progress and benefits as a result. Through cost reductions and efficiencies, NB Power now has the lowest electricity rates in Atlantic Canada while earning record profits and building equity."
As recommended in the blueprint, the provincial government is streamlining and re-integrating NB Power and the New Brunswick System Operator into a single Crown utility.
The Large Industrial Renewable Energy Purchase Program was also introduced to support energy-intensive large industry selling renewable electricity to NB Power. This supports renewable energy goals laid out in the blueprint while providing a way to lower energy costs for New Brunswick companies.
"By supporting and determining how to best position our utility, our government was able to focus on finding creative solutions to other energy challenges,Â” said Alward. Â“Our government is proud of the work that has been completed so far, and I look forward to providing New Brunswickers with a detailed update of our progress on the blueprint this fall."
Alward also highlighted the recent multi-year agreement between global energy technology leader Siemens Canada and NB Power to integrate smart grid technology into the province's electrical system and create a centre of competence based in Fredericton.
"Siemens Canada chose New Brunswick because we had the right energy policy and goals in place as well as a utility with the flexibility and leadership to move forward,Â” Alward said. Â“Siemans Canada found in us a partner that understands the benefits of smart grid technology is focused on energy efficiency and is forward-thinking in developing innovative solutions to energy challenges.
As part of NB Power's Reduce and Shift Demand Strategy, this agreement will enable the utility to place an even greater focus on its customers while continuing to offer stable rates and modernizing the provincial electrical system.