Corbett blasts NB Power CEO, calls for 2030 coal phase-out plan

Our Executive Director Lois Corbett blasted NB Power CEO Gaetan Thomas this week for calling the federal government’s carbon tax “bad policy” while the utility he runs looks to double down on old-fashioned, 1980s electricity systems.

“Sometimes I think that Mr. Thomas carries a great big purse around and in it is a whole bunch of excuses for not changing,” Corbett told Global News on Thursday, April 4.

Corbett was responding to comments Thomas made while justifying the public utility’s intention to apply for a 2.5 per cent rate increase next month.

In various media interviews this week, Thomas said extreme weather events caused by climate change are costing NB Power millions of dollars each year. In the past, he said, the utility would spend an average of $2.5 million on weather and storm-related damages.

Over the last eight years, the utility has spent more than $100 million in the aftermath of more than 60 storms, including Hurricane Arthur and the 2017 ice storm.

But Thomas said the 2.5 per cent rate increase did not factor in the federal government’s carbon tax, which, speaking to CTV on April 1, Thomas called “bad policy.”

At that, Corbett took issue.

“Building up on 1980s electricity systems, not investing in more solar and not investing in more wind. That’s poor public policy,” she said.

In comments that didn’t make it into the Global story, Corbett added:

“What we need from our utility is a plan to phase out coal in Belledune. And the [Energy and Utilities Board], if it’s smart, its members will ask for that type of plan to deal with climate change.

“NB Power needs to invest in solar and wind. These technologies are available now, they’re less expensive than running the coal plant, and they are not vested in pixie-dust inventions coming out of the 1960s nuclear era.

“So we can bring the renewable system up to 100 per cent by 2030 if we see a plan to do it. That’s going to make our homes just as warm, just as cool, and build resilience in our small villages and towns so we don’t have to be panicky about rising sea levels and ice storms and floods.”

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