Saint John Energy reached a proud milestone on Dec. 5, 2022 – 100 years of serving the citizens of our city, powering them as they live, work and play.

For a full century, we have dedicated ourselves to our customers, to helping our city grow and flourish, and to advancing energy innovation for Saint John.

As we achieve this milestone, it seems fitting that we’re on the cusp of making history with the startup of the first utility-scale wind farm in Saint John. The first of the Burchill Wind Project’s 10 turbines will soon start turning, delivering the first injection of locally produced green and renewable energy into our grid.

As it ramps up to full stride, it will produce as much as 15 per cent of the electricity our city needs.

I can’t think of a better way for us to start the next century. We’re grateful to our partners Neqotkuk, formerly known as Tobique First Nation, and Natural Forces as the developers and owners of this exciting project.

Together, we are forging a cleaner energy future for our city. This project alone will save more than 43,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year – that’s equal to taking nearly 13,500 cars off the road.

It’s the continuation of an exciting and important journey for us. As we build out the Utility of the Future right here in Saint John, we’re seen as a leading innovator both in Canada and around the globe.

The age of electricity

Innovation and service to our city and customers have always been part of our culture – and are our reason for being. We were created on Dec. 5, 1922 as citizens and local leaders sought an affordable way to usher the city into the age of electricity.

Saint John’s first power commissioners immediately drew up plans for an electrical substation and distribution network. Within three months, they had mapped the city’s first network of streetlights and issued a proposal to distribute power to the uptown.

With the flip of a switch in the summer of 1923, Saint John’s electric streetlights were turned on. It was the beginning of a new era. Within a year, the new electrical distribution system would have more than 3,000 customers and the fledgling utility would have its first permanent employees.

As the city grew, so did our service.

Our first appliance program launched in 1924, with a proposal to sell electric ranges through a customer payment plan. Skilled cooks provided dazzling exhibitions of the efficiency of electric stoves and ovens at our headquarters and during the Saint John and Atlantic Exhibitions.

In 1925, the Commission launched the city’s first Christmas lighting campaign, drawing shoppers into the city. In the same year, it offered free electricity to support a public event, the Saint John Exhibition. The Power Commission was already becoming a force for municipal development and a point of pride for city residents.

Dedicated and forward-thinking

Our utility has had several names – the Power Commission, Civic Hydro, Saint John Energy – but we have always been an advocate for clean, reliable electricity and innovator in bringing that to our customers.

Water heaters, heat pumps, LED lighting and more would follow as we stayed at the forefront of emerging electrical technology. And today we are advancing programs like EV charging and smart energy appliances.

At Saint John Energy, it is our people that drive our success. We’re a community utility that punches well above our weight because of the commitment and talent of our employees.

Thanks to them, we are able to lead in innovation and provide reliable service that puts our customers first.

Our customer service agents go above and beyond to help our more than 36,000 customers. Saint John Energy crews, members of IBEW Local 1524, work day and night in all kinds of weather to ensure the lights stay on.

Behind the teams on the front lines are dedicated professionals and forward-thinking leaders who make our company what it is today.

Unwavering support

On behalf of the entire organization, I want to express gratitude to the partners and supporters who have thrown their faith and talents behind Saint John Energy. We could not do it without them too.

And, of course, where would we be without our loyal customers? They have repaid our dedication time and again by ranking us as one of the most reliable electrical utility companies in the nation. That trust in our hard work and commitment is vitally important to us.

We certainly would not be as strong as we are today without the City of Saint John and Common Council, whose unwavering support of its locally owned and independently operated utility has allowed us to be successful over the last 100 years.

And while we are very proud of what we have accomplished since 1922, we are driven by the belief that our best days are ahead of us

Today, like a century ago, we’re ready to transition Saint John into a new energy era – one powered by our Utility of the Future.

Readies us for the future

At the heart of the Utility of the Future is our smart grid – designed right here by Saint John Energy and driven by advanced artificial intelligence developed in New Brunswick.

Together with partners such as the University of New Brunswick and Norway’s OSO Hotwater Group, we’re proving that world-class energy ecosystems aren’t just the domain of the big cities.

The International Smart Grid Action Network awarded Saint John Energy its top prize in 2021 for our intelligent grid. We were the first in the world to deploy Tesla Megapack battery storage. And Electricity Canada chose us for a national award for our efforts in curbing carbon-intensive peak energy.

Our smart grid is integral to a cleaner energy future for Saint John. It will allow us to effectively bring renewable energy into our system, give our customers greater convenience and control over their energy use as smart products come online, and drive energy efficiency curb emissions.

And it readies us for a future where more people rely more heavily on electricity to meet their clean energy needs.

Truly humbled

We could not succeed in building this clean energy future for our city and our citizens without the support of the people and organizations around us.

We certainly felt that support and encouragement in November at the InnovateNB Celebration, surrounded by so many incredible innovators and champions from around our province. While we were there to accept an award for our smart grid, we were truly humbled by the sheer talent in the room that night.

We appreciate the support and encouragement of Natural Resources Canada and ACOA, who have rallied around our innovative ideas and provided critical investments in our smart grid and renewable energy projects.

We’re thankful for the support and foresight of the provincial government, which has committed in its Climate Change Action Plan to the development of a clean electricity strategy and to undertake other measures leading to cleaner energy alternatives.

As we move into the next century of serving the citizens of Saint John, we believe it is critical that we do all we can for the future health of our city, our province and our planet. That’s why we are building the Utility of the Future, and that’s why we are determined to be a national leader among electrical utilities in the transition to net-zero emissions.

For 100 years, Saint John Energy and the city we serve have grown together, with commercial, industrial, residential and economic development following the path of electrification.

Throughout the last century, our utility has continued to be guided by a commitment to innovation and an ethos of public service. We are proud to honour the mandate established for us in 1922 to provide Saint John with affordable and reliable energy today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Ryan Mitchell
Ryan Mitchell is President & CEO of Saint John Energy. In 2021, he was named one of Canada’s Clean50 leaders for championing a strategy of growth and innovation in clean energy.