Candidates split over green energy

19 SEPTEMBER 2010

Published Thursday September 16th, 2010

By: Paige Aarhus, hereNB.com

SAINT JOHN - On-terrible, Worst Case Ontario, call it what you will-Canada's biggest province is also a forward-thinking place, especially in terms of green energy.

Ontario introduced a micro feed in tariff (FIT) program last year, which allows private home owners to sell their green energy back into the provincial power grid. Install some rooftop solar panels on your Ottawa bungalow and the government will pay you up to 80 cents per kilowatt hour for the energy it produces.

 

The only green energy buyback program in New Brunswick pays community energy projects a measly 10 cents per kilowatt hour - not exactly the best way to encourage growth and development. We spoke to Saint John Harbour candidates about how to push the green agenda in the Picture Province.

Liberal incumbent and Minister of Supply and Services Dr. Ed Doherty was careful with his words. The seasoned politician said research and development are crucial to green energy in New Brunswick, but stopped short of saying New Brunswick Power should pay more for wind, solar, and biomass power.

"Green energy is important, but we need to be creative, tap our resources, and encourage green development. Find a balance between what NB Power pays and the rates they charge consumers," he said.

Pish posh, said Green candidate Patty Higgins - the time for a FIT program offering lucrative prices to private energy sources is now.

"It's not only feasible, it's necessary," she said. "Energy is going to be the biggest topic in the 21st century. If we get behind the curve, we'll never catch up."

Not only will green development pay off in the long run, said Higgins, but it's already a major economic generator.

"In our manufacturing right now, green jobs are created two to one over traditional energy industries. That's the future," she said.

NDP candidate Wayne Dryer came out swinging for the little guy, arguing for a protected FIT program.

"Our policy is that we would ensure there were no government impediments that would reduce the buyability of the FIT. We don't want to have any larger energy producer regain a monopoly or create a disincentive for the development of alternative energy sources," he said.

Carl Killen, the PC candidate, called for conservation. He admitted he isn't an expert on FIT programs, but stressed the PCs are all for green energy.

"The cheapest energy is the energy you do not use. Conservation is an important element when you're dealing with green energy. There is a recognition in the party that anything green which promotes conservation best practices is something we need to embrace," he said.

Independent candidate John Campbell took a bold stance: he's researched FIT programs he said, and it's just not feasible for a province like New Brunswick.

"At the end of the day somebody has to pay for that, and our people are struggling to pay the rates that we pay now. I'm against it, but I do have a solution. We need to encourage the use of solar hot water systems.

"By encouraging that, we can cut the need for energy by 25 to 35 per cent."

Contact Saint John reporter Paige Aarhus at aarhus.paige@herenb.com

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