Saint John Energy to create ‘utility of the future’ for city
Saint John Energy contributes $100 million a year to the New Brunswick economy, according to a new report – an impact that could rise to an average of $140 million annually over the coming decade.
Economist David Campbell evaluated the impact of the company’s operations and forecasted what its growth strategy could mean for the economy, and presented his findings at the firm’s first virtual annual general meeting.
The company says it is building the “utility of the future” for Saint John with its growth strategy, which includes an emphasis on innovating new products and services for customers and on renewable energy, including the Burchill Wind farm planned for the city. Another key project under the strategy is a smart grid for the city.
Ray Robinson, president and CEO of Saint John Energy, says while COVID-19 has impacted its revenues for 2020, it remains committed to the growth strategy and energizing the local and provincial economy.
“Our strategy for growth is designed to ensure a sustainable future for our utility. It is designed to transform Saint John Energy into the Utility of the Future, to grow prosperity and jobs for Saint John and to advance New Brunswick’s innovation agenda,” he said during the AGM.
“And we believe it is more important than ever. COVID-19 has not stopped us. If anything, the growth strategy has become more important – it can help drive the recovery for Saint John.”
During the meeting, the company announced Home Heat Saver, a new service for its customers that will allow them to detect energy leakage from the roofs of their homes through unique aerial mapping technology.
For the service, a first in Atlantic Canada, Saint John Energy is partnering with the Calgary firm MyHeat, the University of New Brunswick and the Government of Canada. It will undergo a small trial this summer with an expected launch in the fall.
With MyHeat providing colour-coded images of rooftops in the city, customers will have private access to the images for their own homes and be able to compare that to city-wide and neighbourhood averages. Saint John Energy will then help connect customers with rebate programs, efficiency services and innovative products to help them conserve energy and save money on their power bills.
In his report, available online, Campbell concluded that Saint John Energy’s growth strategy could increase the firm’s direct and indirect employment impact to nearly 700 full-time jobs in 2029 from about 450 today. (The company has about 100 workers today, and creates another 350 spinoff jobs through their spending, according to the report.)
With a high-growth scenario, its impact on the provincial economy would grow to a cumulative $1.4 billion over the 10-year period ending in 2029, Campbell found.
He also found that Saint John has the second-highest concentration of workers in the electrical sector in Canada, behind Oshawa, Ont.
“Saint John Energy is part of a significant energy cluster in the region today. It’s notable that the Saint John region has one of the highest concentrations of employment in electricity generation, transmission and distribution of any urban centre in the country with 1,100 workers. The vast majority of those are employed by NB Power, generating and distributing power to Saint John Energy and to other customers in the region and across the province,” said Campbell, president & CEO of Jupia Consultants Inc. and a former chief economist for New Brunswick.
“As we look to transition off fossil fuels in the years ahead, electricity will play an even more important role in our energy system. Having Saint John Energy, an innovative electrical utility with a proven track record of reliability and fiscal discipline, headquartered in the city makes for a valuable player in growing this cluster well into the future.”