Energy policy jumbled, contains no logic

Dave Francis
Moncton Times & Transcript
January 31, 2001

An expert on the Canadian electric power industry says New Brunswick’s new energy policy is a hodgepodge of ideas without a common thread of logic to tie them together.

“This is not a plan, this is just a grouping of ideas,” said Tom Adams, executive director of the Ontario-based electric industry watchdog group Energy Probe.

Adams spent much of yesterday reading the 100-page energy policy, and told the Times & Transcript it is one of the most confusing documents on energy he’s yet to come across.

“This is just jargon without the ideas behind them,” he said.

Adams’ biggest complaint about the provincial government’s new energy policy is that it contains no mention of NB Power, nor what the province intends to do with the Crown corporation or its $3-billion debt.

“It’s not a statement of policy,” he said. “It’s a list of questions.

“There are way too many unanswered questions.”

Adams has long said he was concerned upon hearing the government would release an energy policy that did not identify its future plans for NB Power.

“If this is a serious document it needs to have an assessment of NB Power’s position,” he said. “New Brunswick’s biggest problem (in the energy sector) is that NB Power is bankrupt. It’s not acting in a financially-responsible fashion.”

Premier Bernard Lord and Energy Minister Jeannot Volpe said yesterday they will reveal their plans for NB Power within the next year, but that the energy policy sets out a game plan to begin allowing competition in New Brunswick’s energy sector.

Adams, however, said that aside from failing to deal with NB Power, the energy policy is like a game plan without rules. It suggests that some large industrial companies in the province will be allowed to start generating their own electricity beginning in 2003, and even selling power if they can find a buyer. The problem, Adams said, is there are no concrete answers as to what fees NB Power will charge for use of its transmission lines, or what penalties companies will pay for opting out of the Crown corporation’s system.

It appears that many of the regulations and fees will be established either by a “market design committee” yet to be created by government, or by the provincial Public Utilities Board. But Adams said those details should have been included in the policy released yesterday, because for the PUB to come up with all of that by 2003 will be an almost impossible job.

 

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