Renewable Energy Developer Calls out New Brunswick for Stifling Clean Energy Investment

By: Amit Virmani is the Founder & CEO of Naveco Power Inc., a renewable energy company based in Fredericton. He was named one of Atlantic Business Magazine’s top 50 CEOs in 2020 and 2021. He was also named as one of Canada’s Clean50 Honourees for exceptional contributions to clean capitalism in 2021.

It would be nothing extraordinary to say that this past 16 months has been a difficult time to be at the helm of a small business. Let alone a small business in the renewable energy sector, in a province with less-than-helpful policy positions regarding renewable energy.

While New Brunswick continues to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the refurbishment of decades old facilities and potential R&D projects for the future, it has outright cut its development of wind energy entirely for the next decade. New Brunswick has also made limited progress in enabling the development of solar energy in our province. As the CEO of a company that works in the renewable energy sector, this is of course concerning to me as we face several current crises that can be helped by expanded development of renewable energy and storage solutions.  

In our region, we face the difficulty of dealing with a provincially legislated monopoly when it comes to renewable energy. This makes private ventures in our industry rather difficult outside of smaller-scale (up to 100kw) developments, as the wheels of bureaucracy do indeed turn slowly. Too slow, for a small business that is looking to grow into a largely untapped market in the Maritimes. 

While New Brunswick continues to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the refurbishment of decades old facilities and potential R&D projects for the future, it has outright cut its development of wind energy entirely for the next decade. New Brunswick has also made limited progress in enabling the development of solar energy in our province“.

Amit Virmani, Naveco

The monopoly we face in NB also curbs innovation and growth due to the lack of private competition as very few businesses operate in our market. This is a great loss for our industry, and for New Brunswickers. Hopefully, with the innovations in battery storage technology, we will see solar energy become more of interest on a larger scale in NB and for developers and utilities alike.  

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has slapped Canada and much of the world with the worst economic downturn we have seen since the Great Depression. Millions of jobs lost, businesses gone forever, large corporations shutting down Canadian branches and stores, and on it goes. Recently, there has been much discussion as to how the Canadian economy will recover. Experts from all over the world suggest renewable energy projects must be at the core of our economic recovery.  From the UN to Forbes, many sources point towards renewable energy investments as the solution we need. This is by no means a fringe, radical idea; it makes economic sense to invest in renewable energy to restructure the economy.   

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Why Renewable Energy Projects? 

Renewable energy projects have been on the rise for some time now. In fact, they will likely be one of the only elements of the economy that grows during this economic downturn. In 2019, the industry grew by a record of 184 gigawatts (GW), not including large hydropower generation. Although this was a 12 per cent jump over the previous year, the 2019-dollar investment was only 1 per cent higher. The cost of solar PV systems also dropped in the second half of 2019 by 83 percent globally. In the U.S., the EIA expects them to surpass coal in their share of energy production for the first time. The European Union has also used investment in the clean energy sector as a cornerstone of its economic recovery. Evidently, clean energy investment played a crucial role in the US Recovery Act after the 2008 recession as well. 

So, with all this information, why should government and the private sector focus our financial efforts on clean energy as a part of this economic restart? Renewable energy as a sector has seen consistent, rapid growth for some time now. It has also sustained its demand for growth amid one of the worst economic downturns in recent history. Its upfront costs are also consistently dropping, whilst its economic return for investment is guaranteed. The clean energy sector offers guaranteed growth, demonstrable resiliency, sustained demand, and guaranteed economic and environmental benefits. It also provides an opportunity for skilled workers, who may be struggling to find work in the current economic climate. For all the above reasons, we see the need to heavily invest in renewable energy projects, on a macro-economic scale.   

How Renewable Energy Developers Can Help 

Naveco Power, New Brunswick’s only utility-scale renewable energy developer, is entirely owned and operated in New Brunswick. As well, Naveco is working towards a clean energy future, as we have seen countless initiatives fail in our province. Whether it be potash mining, the Energy East Pipeline, salt water to hydrogen energy generation, or fracking, this has been going on for decades. We have also seen how at-risk our crucial industries, such as fisheries and softwood lumber, have been in recent years. With our aging population in decline, our economy relatively stagnant, and the current crisis, we need an economic Hail Mary. Renewable energy projects present a hopeful opportunity for economic prosperity in New Brunswick. With all the benefits mentioned above, we can shift to a green economy that is also overwhelmingly economically beneficial. 

Local Job Opportunities 

Status quo economic ideas have not helped New Brunswick, and they will not drag us out of this economic crisis. Now is the time to revolutionize our economy. With billions of dollars of recovery funding being tossed around, we now have the means to do so. The clean energy sector can provide job opportunities, while also cutting utility expenses for businesses. Additionally, it can offer extended economic growth and stability, a greener economy, and a brighter future for all New Brunswickers. We have hope here at Naveco Power. We believe in New Brunswick, and in this time of uncertainty, we see a way forward to a better tomorrow.   

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Save on Utility Costs 

For local businesses, there are clear economic benefits when renewable energy is adopted. In a time of economic difficulty and uncertainty, cutting costs and a guaranteed return of decades to come is a reassuring thought given the current economic climate. Installing solar panels through a 25-year lease with Naveco Power, for example, offers a cost-effective method of cutting your utility costs for years to come. This kind of opportunity can offer peace of mind to business owners who are unsure of what the future holds. Naveco Power and renewable energy developers across the country can offer the certainty of guaranteed economic and environmental benefits at a reasonable cost.   

Decrease Your Carbon Footprint 

While the economic benefit and importance of switching to renewables are paramount now, there are also significant environmental benefits in doing so. Most countries are currently lagging on their Paris Climate Accord targets, with 826 GW (1 Trillion USD of investment) set to be in production by 2030.  This falls short of last decade’s achievements, which saw around 1,200GW of new capacity, at a cost of $2.7 trillion. If the world, including us here in NB, focuses on renewable energy as a cornerstone of our economic recovery from this recession, we may well see the level of investment in new clean energy sources needed to curb global warming.  This energy development is also critical to offset our emissions from various industries and transportation.  

The economy and the environment are tied together. We face an economic crisis and an environmental crisis currently on top of the current health crisis. The solution to our current economic and environmental situations is before our very eyes. The science is clear, and the economics are also very clear. How we move forward is a conscious choice. Renewable energy is a significant economic opportunity for New Brunswickers and the world, which greatly benefits our environment. It is a chance to revolutionize our economy and exit this recession with our future in mind. At Naveco Power, we have the future in mind, and we hope the powers that be see the opportunity we do in New Brunswick. Now is the time to shift to renewable energy.   

As a CEO in the renewable energy industry, I am concerned with the lack of understanding of the benefits presented and opportunities available through the development of renewable energy. Particularly in a region of the country that has notoriously struggled to find an economic salvation from our status as a ‘have-not’ province. Renewable energy policy here in New Brunswick is abysmally inadequate. Thankfully, the solutions to improve policy here simply require the political will to enact them. I hope that given the economic opportunity presented by my industry, this will happen. Because truly, renewable energy can be the economic solution to pull New Brunswick, and the maritime provinces, into an era of economic prosperity.  

I have this hope not only as an entrepreneur who has come from a family that immigrated to this country with the hope of a better future, but as a proud New Brunswicker who believes in his fellow citizens. I know for certain that we can improve the well-being of our populous, economically, environmentally, and physically through the development of renewable energy. Yet, as Amanda Gorman so eloquently put forward at the outset of this year: “For there is always light, / if only we’re brave enough to see it. / If only we’re brave enough to be it.” At our company, we can certainly see the light of the promise of renewable energy in our region. At this same time, we strive to embody that promise in our work, for the betterment of our society and our customers.