Leonard hints at NB Power restructuring changes
Energy Minister Craig Leonard is studying various options for restructuring NB Power but he is hinting that he may not stick with a plan announced last year by the former Liberal government.
Last summer, following the implosion of the deal to sell parts of NB Power to Hydro-Québec, the Liberals announced their intention to put the various NB Power companies back together as a single company while allowing the New Brunswick System Operator to remain independent.
However, Leonard said he would not commit to sticking with that plan.
"We're looking at all the different efficiencies that might be able to be pulled out of NB Power, and certainly structure is one that we're looking at as well," Leonard said.
"But again, it'll all be dealt with in the policy document."
Leonard said the Progressive Conservative government will release its energy policy next month.
The energy policy will be based partly on the New Brunswick Energy Commission’s final report, which was released in May.
Premier David Alward asked Jeannot Volpé, a former Progressive Conservative energy minister, and Bill Thompson, a former deputy minister of energy, to write a 10-year energy strategy for the province.
The former Bernard Lord government unbundled NB Power into competing subsidiaries almost a decade ago in its plan to make the Crown corporation function more like a business. The energy commission revisited that restructuring model in its latest document and highlighted additional reasons for the separation.
"These steps were done in part to meet the requirements for participation in the United States electricity market," the report said.
The U.S. energy regulator has certain standards for electricity utilities to meet if they want to sell power into the United States.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeks to ensure all companies have equal access to a transmission system.
So, in New Brunswick, the NBSO acts as an independent agency that allows access to the New Brunswick transmission grid.
If NB Power or Hydro-Québec or energy companies in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador, want to transmit power through New Brunswick's grid and into the United States, they contact the NBSO and an open bidding process takes place. Before the Lord government's restructuring, NB Power controlled access to the transmission system.
When NB Power released its own restructuring plan last June, it also recommended maintaining the independence of the NBSO.
The New Brunswick Energy Commission did not make a specific recommendation on the NBSO but called for more regional collaboration. A concept that is often discussed is having a single, independent system operator that would oversee the Maritime transmission systems and perhaps parts of Maine.