Energy park idea – building the cluster

I read this morning that the French energy firm Areva is looking at getting involved in an energy park in the Saint John region.   This could include a second nuclear reactor and other investments creating lots of high paying jobs. 

It’s a bit strange for the Opposition to be tying this to the failed Hydro-Quebec asset sale but I guess we are in that political season.

We will have to see the specifics of the arrangement.  I suspect at this point they will just be signing some kind of MOU and working towards a real project.  I’m not sure if the power from a second reactor would be used here or exported to the U.S.  If the power was for New Brunswick, we would need a very long term contract at a low price.  We can’t afford to be exposed to the cost risks associated with nuclear power, IMO.

But the broader energy park concept is important.  It’s one thing to produce energy, it’s another – and potentially far more lucrative – to use energy to power economic development here.

But even more important is the growing realization that ‘energy hub’ must be far more than just a few big energy projects.  What good is LNG if natural gas prices here are through the roof?  What good is it to be an electricity exporter if electricity prices here are uncompetitive? 

ExxonMobil is now the largest private sector employer in Moncton and Accenture has a utilities BPO in Fredericton serving energy clients across Canada.  We need to expand our definition of energy hub into the services sector as well.  Our software and I.T. firms should be building product for energy companies (like the smart grid project underway).  We should be a hub for back offices.  We should be attracting regional offices (Apache, Southwestern Energy, etc.).

We could end up with 20,000 above average paying jobs and tens of millions in tax revenue to government each year from a broad-based energy hub that goes from natural gas exploration through to petrochemical processing through to an industrial energy park and on to a cluster of services and support firms.

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