Energy & Power
NB Power recommends life achievement option for Mactaquac Generating Station
By Renée Francoeur
This recommendation follows a fact-based decision process involving NB Power’s board of directors, balancing environmental, social, technical and cost considerations.
The project includes extending the life of existing concrete facilities through a modified approach to maintenance and replacing equipment over time. It will not require a new public river crossing, the utility notes.
“We believe we have made a sound decision about Mactaquac that makes good business sense, meets the present and future needs of New Brunswick’s changing power grid and reflects the values of New Brunswickers,” said Ed Barrett, chair of NB Power’s board. “As a public utility, we clearly understand that any course of action regarding Mactaquac has deep and lasting consequences. Maintaining the station will allow NB Power future flexibility while we meet our financial and environmental goals and continue to provide safe, reliable energy at low and stable rates.”
The estimated cost of the life achievement option is between $2.9 to $3.6 billion.
Since the 1980s, concrete portions of the hydro station have been affected by a chemical reaction called alkali-aggregate reaction, the utility says. The reaction causes the concrete to swell and crack and has required substantial annual maintenance and repairs.
In anticipation of an early station retirement, NB Power began consulting in 2013 with engineers, scientists, stakeholders, the public and First Nations on potential future options. These options include building a new station, removing all structures except for the earthen dam and spillway, or removing all structures and restoring the Saint John River to a natural flow.
In the spring of 2016, a fourth option to maintain the station became viable after detailed studies of the AAR-affected concrete revealed better structural integrity than previously understood and this approach is now NB Power’s preferred option.
“We deeply appreciate the generosity of our customers, First Nations and others who took the time to share their stories, insights and concerns about the future of Mactaquac in writing and in person. Your feedback has been an essential part of the decision process and has informed our recommendation,” said Gaëtan Thomas, president and CEO of NB Power. “Maintaining the station reflects our customers’ strong agreement on the importance of the environment while respecting their caution on costs. This option reflects the consistent support from thousands of New Brunswickers for investments in renewable electricity here at home, but not at any cost. Maintaining the station will ensure that hydro-electricity remains a critical part of our grid, which is essential to meeting our renewable energy targets today and in the future.”
In the coming months, NB Power says it will seek environmental approvals with the Province of New Brunswick and follow application and review processes for financial approvals to be defined by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB).