Premier Higgs doubts Atlantic Loop will meet region’s power needs – New Brunswick
Premier Blaine Higgs says he’s unsure whether a proposed interprovincial power-sharing megaproject will be able to meet Atlantic region’s electricity needs.
The four Atlantic Premiers called on Ottawa last week to come up with clear timelines and funding commitments for the Atlantic Loop project, which would see clean hydroelectricity from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador cross the Maritimes via an improved transportation network.
Bt Higgs isn’t sure this will be enough to replace energy produced by fossil fuels.
“Even on current projections, this cannot meet the needs of the Atlantic region,” Higgs said at a news conference after a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers last week.
The Atlantic Loop project has often been touted as key to helping the Maritime provinces meet federal clean energy goals over the next decade. Coal and oil alone account for about one-fifth of New Brunswick’s electricity generation, but they cannot be burned after 2030 and 2035 respectively.
According to a working paper released by the Atlantica Center for Energy, a Saint John-based energy research group, the loss of coal and oil power will cause the generation capacity of the province.
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“It’s an important part of our base load, which means it’s constant electricity that can handle, especially given our winter climate, those spikes in demand when we have those really very hot days. cold,” said Atlantica President Michelle Robichaud.
New Brunswick had reached an equivalency agreement with the federal government to allow the province’s coal-fired Belledune plant to remain operational beyond the 2030 deadline, promising comparable carbon emissions reductions elsewhere. , but this was ultimately rejected. The 450 megawatt plant had an original lifespan that would have kept it in operation until 2040.
Higgs said the coal and oil phase-out being implemented by the federal government should be delayed to allow other technologies to come online and replace that power base.
“We are currently in the transition to a greener economy, but what we realize now is that there are huge gaps in supply, time and cost,” he said. declared.
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But those perceived shortcomings are because Higgs has tunnel vision about a particular technology, according to clean energy researcher Louise Comeau.
“If you think your only option is small modular nuclear reactors and traditional fossil fuel sources and you’re not investing in the alternatives, then obviously your only option will be to stick with past options,” he said. Comeau, the manager. climate change and energy policy at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
Two Saint John-based companies are trying to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). The first reactor, built by ARC Clean Energy, is expected to be commissioned in 2029 and will provide 100 megawatts of electricity. The other company, Moltex Energy, expects a 300 megawatt reactor to be completed in the 2030s.
Robichaud says while the technology looks promising, there are risks it won’t be available when the province needs it.
“Will it come in time?” she says.
“So if we’re looking at the cost and the time and the potential to replace some of these fossil fuels, that’s something we need to be looking at quite seriously right now.”
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Comeau says a better solution would be to increase the province’s wind and solar capacity, while working to ensure that we power and heat the province much more efficiently and depend on the Atlantic Loop project to provide that power from base.
“We need that firm baseload power, but the fact is that hydropower in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec can act like a battery, there to balance when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t blowing. don’t shine,” she said.
But Higgs fears the Atlantic Loop project won’t be ready in time to play that role, with timelines and funding sources remaining unclear.
“Timelines for big projects like this are important,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Federal Department of Intergovernmental Affairs said work is underway to move the project forward, but no firm construction schedule has yet been put in place.
“Canada, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and their respective utilities are actively meeting bilaterally and multilaterally through the Atlantic Loop Backbone Working Table to discuss options for advance the Atlantic loop project. Five areas of work have been initiated with the provinces and public services to advance discussions on the technical and financial paths of the project, ”wrote Pierre-Alain Bujold in an email.
“As the Canada Infrastructure Bank noted in its Spring Market Update, the bank is participating in discussions and working with all partners to explore financing options to move the project forward.”
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