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NB Power considering partnership with Ontario Power to combat Point Lepreau volatility

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New Brunswick Power’s CEO revealed Friday a set of December storms cost the power utility about $30 million, another significant pressure on their bottom line.

The crown corporation’s top brass answered questions during a public accounts committee Friday, a number of them related to NB Power’s financial challenges.

Those pressures also include $120 million in upgrades at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station during an upcoming 100 day maintenance outage, which will also mean its energy generation will be down at least 30 per cent this year.

The goal is to have Point Lepreau operating at a 90 per cent efficiency on a yearly basis, but it’s experienced several years of volatility.

That is why NB Power is looking at a partnership opportunity with Ontario Power Generation, who obtains over 50 per cent of its power generation from its nuclear stations.

Clark admitted the utility has “fallen below” the industry standard for the level of investment its put into Point Lepreau, and it’s now at a point where significant improvements are needed to get the facility functioning at a higher level.

Which is why they’re discussing options with OGP – although nothing has been finalized.

“This is not a sale of Lepreau. What we're looking at is how do we get the plant operating as effectively and efficiently and as it can,” Clark told reporters. “You know, one of the options we're looking at is a partnership with Ontario Power Generation, and what we're contemplating is setting up an entity that the asset could sit in and it would basically sell all of the power to New Brunswickers.”

MLA and N.B. Green Party leader David Coon said there are many outstanding questions on such an arrangement.

“Ontario Power Generation is going to look to be making some profit off of this, but there's lots of liabilities around Point Lepreau. And are they taking on any of those liabilities?” he said. “Lots of questions.”

The Mactaquac generation station refurbishment is also looming. Estimates provided in 2015 set the cost of that project at around three billion.

Darren Murphy, chief financial officer at NB Power, said it will likely be higher, but they’re working with a third party to come up with updated estimates – aiming to have those released in July.

The utility is about five billion in debt. In 2023, the Blaine Higgs government extended NB Power’s debt target deadline by two years, to 2029.

That has allowed the crown corporation to slow their rate increases. Still, they’ve applied for a 9.8 per cent increase for residential customers in both 2024 and 2025, and a variance account application asking for a three per cent increase in 2024.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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