Higgs heads to Europe to pitch energy sources that don't exist yet

·3 min read
Premier Blaine Higgs will will be at the World Hydrogen Summit next week in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Premier Blaine Higgs will will be at the World Hydrogen Summit next week in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

Premier Blaine Higgs is heading to Europe next week to promote three New Brunswick energy sources that remain largely hypothetical at the moment.

Higgs will be at the World Hydrogen Summit next week in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and will then travel to Paris.

The focus in Rotterdam will be pitching the province's hydrogen, natural gas and small modular reactor projects to customers — though none of them are producing anything that exists yet.

He'll position all three of those sources as a key part of the transition away from greenhouse gas-emitting energy as the world seeks to limit the effects of climate change.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

"We want the world to know that we are well positioned to be Canada's energy gateway to Europe and an integral player in lower greenhouse gas emissions provincially, nationally and globally," he told reporters.

In Rotterdam, he'll present his case to 8,000 delegates from more than a hundred countries attending the summit.

It includes plans for a green hydrogen production plant at the port of Belledune that would export ammonia fuel to global customers.

Higgs vouched for the plant's green credentials, saying it will "have to be basically supplied by renewables, whether it be wind farms, solar. There could be some traditional supply but it is going to need an extensive renewable source."

That would allow the plant to market its power in Europe as not generated in a plant powered by fossil fuels.

It's not clear what market there would be in Europe for small modular nuclear reactors built in New Brunswick by ARC Clean Energy Inc. and Moltex Energy.

Other companies around the world are working on their own SMR designs and some countries in Europe, including Germany, have cooled to nuclear power as a fossil fuel alternative.

And for both ARC and Moltex, a working reactor remains several years away. ARC says its first will be able to start operating at Point Lepreau in 2030 while Moltex says its initial device will take more time.

A pitch for liquefied natural gas

Higgs will also pitch liquefied natural gas exports from a province that doesn't yet have the Indigenous buy-in to proceed with developing an industry.

The province has pitched sharing between $800 million and $1.6 billion in shale gas revenue with First Nations over 20 years if they consent to development.

The premier said Friday that European countries are signing deals with other suppliers for the same gas "that we have right here under our feet."

He said it's hard to "imagine the logic of not understanding the benefits."

While natural gas is a fossil fuel that emits climate-warming greenhouse gases, it emits less than other carbon sources like coal.

Higgs argues that makes it a necessary transition fuel until completely non-emitting energy sources produce enough power to eliminate fossil fuels completely.

"How do we best play a role in this at a time when we only have a window to utilize what's under our feet?" he said.

"I'm hopeful that rational heads will prevail and we'll be able to have that discussion meaningfully and objectively."

The Paris part of the trip won't be energy-focused but is aimed at building on existing France-New Brunswick business connections.