“A fool learns from his experience. A wise person learns from the experience of others.” Otto von Bismarck
The greatest fool offers unsolicited advice. That being said, here are some suggestions on how the Liberal energy policy could be improved. The government is not is the business of making money or investing our tax dollars with any hope of return, at least not in the conventional sense.
Take the idea of extending four lane highways all over the province, as touted by the economic gurus at a cost of hundreds of millions. I don’t quite understand who is profiting from these highways except for the construction companies. At least in the energy arena, there is a hope that a well thought out investment will eventually add prosperity via lower energy costs.
- Energy Production
For example, New Brunswick will need to replace its oil-fired generation and phase out dirty Minto coal in the future. It’s always nice to have a plan B if the Lepreau 2 idea doesn’t pan out economically. How about a trip to Newfoundland for some fishing? At the same time, have a chat with Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland who has two great hydro sites (Gull Island and Muskrat Falls) that have 2800 Megawatts total capacity and will cost $9 Billion dollars to develop.
If New Brunswick were to offer to partner on this project for 25% of the costs, it could be a good deal for both parties. Our cost might be roughly $2.5 Billion for 700 Megawatts. This is more than equivalent to the output of a new Lepreau nuclear plant and the cost is not all that different. This reduces greenhouse gases from oil generation and inflation will lower the real cost over the years. With open access now available through Quebec or through a cable to Nova Scotia, it appears economic.
- Reducing transportation fuel consumption
The fuel cost problem is far from solved. Temporarily lower crude prices and taxes do not make a long-term solution. It will take years and smart policy to change the vehicles in NB to higher mileage units.
Lower the highway speed limit by 10 km per hour. This idea is not expensive to implement but very effective in reducing wasted gas. It will bring a guaranteed 5% overall saving in fuel and fewer traffic accidents to boot.
How about an annual registration rebate for new vehicles with city mileage ratings lower than 9 liters / 100 km, and a penalty for ratings over 9? For example, Honda Insight (rating 3.9) gets an annual $510 rebate. Ford Focus (rating 9) no registration cost. GMC Yukon (rating 17.3) pays $830 registration per year.
A serious look at the government fleet could serve as an example for others by reducing the size of cars.
- Home and Business Energy Conservation
They say that if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. Efficiency NB could assign energy ratings (kWh equivalent / square foot) to the building stock in the province and tackle the worst cases of poor insulation in cooperation with the home and business owners. In the cases of rental units where tenants pay the heat, units not meeting the minimum efficiency rating must be moved off the rental market. No person in this province should be cold in the winter.
- Rural heating supply
Wood is a renewable resource. In rural areas many people use wood as their heating supply. This provides NB Power with some benefits from peak reduction and reduction of system capital improvements. It isn’t economic to run natural gas distribution rurally due to distance. There are negative health issues involved in urban burning of wood but natural gas is available to many city dwellers. The province could contract with wood suppliers, via crown lands supply, to partially subsidize a base supply of wood to rural residents until all homes are brought up to a reasonable efficiency standard. The subsidy of $25/ cord to a maximum of $150 / year would be available for 5 years as a transition step.
- Electricity Rates / NB Power
The present declining block rate structure provides those who use a lot of electricity with lower rates. Electricity doesn’t get cheaper to produce after the first 1300 kWh’s. The PUB has wanted to implement this but it hasn’t happened. If done on a revenue neutral basis, a flat rate shouldn’t be a large difference. NS Power has developed an interesting time of use rate with thermal storage units to provide economical heat and flatten peak loads with off peak electric heat charging. We should investigate.
Any new thermal generation in the province must be designed with co-generation. NB Power must be encouraged via the PUB to retrofit where possible and co-operate in co-generation initiatives.
- Energy Report Card
The department of Energy should be mandated to provide an annual energy report to citizens of New Brunswick. This report will track the usage of liquid fuels in the province by sector usage (transportation, industrial, home heating, etc.), green house gas emissions and other indicators that are deemed useful in the measurement of our progress towards a smaller sustainable energy footprint.
All too often government policies are designed not to succeed, but to give the impression of action. To success we must have focus, the will to educate, to advocate change and to follow through with perseverance.
If our new premier were listening, I would pass along this quotation. “If your heart is in the right place and you have good taste, not only will you pass muster in politics, you are destined for it. If you are modest and do not lust after power, not only are you suited to politics, you absolutely belong there.” Václav Havel