The Community of Creative Citizens (CCC) is self-described as “a group of New Brunswick residents drawn from business, public administration, consulting, health care, and academia, all of whom share the dream that their beloved province flourish economically, socially, and culturally”. The group remains focused on “the present, the near-term future and the longer-term future of New Brunswick”.
The CCC has identified energy as one of their primary areas of focus in 2023 and, with support from the Atlantica Centre for Energy, organized an interactive Public Energy Symposium in Fredericton at the University of New Brunswick’s Wu Conference Centre on Wednesday, March 15th.
The session was well attended by approximately 90 people, representing a diverse audience of energy, environmental, business, government, and First Nations stakeholders from throughout the province.
The session was facilitated by David Campbell from Jupia Consulting, and included an extended follow-up rapid fire question and answer session that provided the opportunity for the symposium participants to engage the speakers on a wide range of issues, questions, and clarifications. Speakers focused on the critical interconnectivity of economics, energy, and the environment, and included:
- Brad Coady, NB Power, who spoke about NB Power’s commitment to a net-zero electricity system by 2035 to reduce carbon emissions. The phase out of coal-fired power at Belledune and pending federal regulations influencing the role of fossil-fuel generators will be required along with investing in renewable energy solutions, energy efficiency programs, and smart grid technology.
- Denis Caron, Port of Belledune, outlined the potential of the Port to become a green energy hub with its land availability, transition of the Belledune Generating Station, clean industrial activity, port-to-port connections in Europe, and exciting green industrial projects underway.
- A panel on SMRs featured Andy Hayward of NB Power, Nick McTiernan of ARC Clean Technology and Alex Delorey of Moltex Energy. The panel provided a detailed look at the current state of advanced small modular reactor development programs in the province and Andy identified timelines and why NB Power was pursuing advanced nuclear. Alex outlined its commitment to reducing nuclear waste and anticipated growth in the province this year. Nick described the technology’s current state of readiness built upon a 30-year history of proven technology.
- Peter Churcher, Consultant, underscored how natural gas development in NB could be a possible transition fuel given the current demand and supply constraints in the region. Peter emphasized the current barriers to any kind of development in the Penobsquis region.
- Gordon Murray, Wood Pellet Association of Canada, discussed how biomass can be a responsible contributor in our province’s energy transition.
The luncheon keynote address was provided by the Honourable Mike Holland, Minister, Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, Government of New Brunswick. Minister Holland reinforced the critical relationship that the energy sector has with the province’s economy and environment, including the challenges and opportunities associated with greening our energy supplies. He addressed a range of audience questions relating to NB Power, the province’s crown electric utility, natural gas development and First Nations engagement and partnership opportunities. He also positioned the Government of New Brunswick and the recently established Energy Secretariat as a facilitator and enabler of energy projects and private sector investment.
Daryl Branscombe, CEO and Founder of the Community of Creative Citizens, and Michelle Robichaud, President of the Atlantica Centre for Energy opened and closed the symposium, including a call to action with respect to the importance of the energy sector to the region’s future economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.
Three key themes were reinforced by the session:
- Energy Literacy: The importance of developing a generation of energy literate New Brunswickers was reinforced multiple times during the session. Individuals and businesses need to be able to make informed energy decisions, and they need to understand the nature of the decisions that governments are making on their behalf.
- NB Needs an Energy Plan: The session reinforced the huge potential that the energy sector presents for New Brunswick, but there needs to be a plan. The province can leverage its strengths while setting the stage for billions of dollars of private-sector investment. It was clear that without a fully engaged and supportive private-sector success in in achieving net-zero will be difficult while maintaining a strong economy.
- The Energy Dialogue Must Continue: Collectively, we need to find ways to proactively duplicate the spirit of the March 15th session in other parts of New Brunswick. Engaging in both official languages and with a wide cross section of demographics and communities, including First Nations is imperative.