FREDERICTON (GNB) – Amendments to the Electricity Act introduced this week are intended to modernize the act and allow NB Power to improve its fiscal health.

“NB Power’s ongoing debt problem is not a new issue,” said Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland. “For close to a year now, my department and I have been working with NB Power to identify the barriers that are preventing the utility from improving its performance. With these amendments, we are taking steps to allow NB Power to improve its financial situation for the long term, modernize for the future in a sector that is rapidly evolving, and, ultimately, bring taxpayers greater benefits.”

Among the amendments outlined in An Act to Amend the Electricity Act are: allowing NB Power to file applications for electricity rates up to every three years instead of annually; filing a three-year strategic, financial and investment plan to replace the current 10-year plan; and providing mechanisms for NB Power to more affordably offer energy efficiency programs to New Brunswickers.

Also included are changes to the corporate structure of NB Power. The new structure would include both regulated and unregulated businesses, allowing the utility to develop and offer new products and services in New Brunswick and outside the province. This is meant to create increased revenue opportunities that would help NB Power pay down its debt.

The amendments would also establish a process for considering economic and societal costs and benefits, as well as decision-making related to the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station. Decisions about large capital investments in the Mactaquac dam are currently made by the Energy and Utilities Board. Holland said, although the government will ask the board to review the project’s cost estimates, the government intends to evaluate broader topics, such as greenhouse gas emissions, spinoff economic activity and quality of life benefits for nearby landowners.

“This legislation will put NB Power in a better position to recover costs and plan for future investments,” said Holland. “These changes are needed to help NB Power continue to provide safe, reliable and clean electricity services to New Brunswickers while keeping electricity rates as low and stable as possible.”