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A day in the life of an NB Power energy marketer

July 14 2016, 13:24 PM

A day in the life of an NB Power energy marketer

This is the first post in our new “A day in the life of…” series, which aims to showcase the diverse career opportunities at NB Power and the employees who thrive in these jobs.

As the morning light in downtown Fredericton starts to bleed through the windows of NB Power’s energy marketing desk, Andrew Robinson quietly sets up his work station for the day, mind already reeling with the day’s tasks and figures.

Once his system is up and running, Andrew’s day is off to a fast start. All the marketing desk employees gather for their morning meeting to discuss the factors of the day in order to keep NB Power’s electricity costs low. These factors can range from water flows, world conditions, weather, fuel prices and business opportunities.

NB Power’s Energy Marketing Desk buys and sells electricity in markets outside of New Brunswick, moment by moment, 24/7- just like the stock market. Andrew and his coworkers in the marketing desk analyze the system load forecast, information on NB Power’s generation assets and external factors to determine whether it’s cheaper to buy or sell electricity that day.

“We plan for any generator outages that are scheduled during the next few days.  Once all this information is collected you need to identify any shortages or surpluses of generation for the next day,” he said.” Then determine the marginal cost of your generation and identify if there is any way to reduce that cost through purchasing or if you can sell any excess generation for a profit.”

Sometimes it might be cheaper for NB Power to buy electricity for an hour than it is to generate, while other times it’s more profitable to sell or transmit electricity for other companies. Any electricity sold to utilities outside the province goes into subsidizing rates for New Brunswickers.

“The activities in the energy marketing desk affect the bottom line of other activities in NB Power,” said Andrew. “The decisions we make have a direct correlation with buying and/ or selling energy.”

For the fiscal year 2015/16 the New Brunswick Energy Marketing Corporation generated $83.8 Million in gross margin all of which is used to lower electricity rates.

Andrew started working with NB Power while he was in his fifth year of university at the University of New Brunswick. He has worked for the company for eighteen years. He knows his duties as an energy marketer are critical for the well-being of the company. He has to meet several deadlines and manage time constraints every day.

“I love my job,” he said. “Every day is a new day and a new opportunity. I like making decisions and being responsible for my actions. This is what I most like about working in the energy marketing desk.”

The desk has employees planning and analyzing solutions in this economic nerve centre of NB Power 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Employees like Andrew make sure to take advantage of the market prices of energy, whether those prices increase or decrease.

“We always make sure to take advantage of those changes,” he said. “The market is constantly changing and here in the marketing desk we’re always learning and adapting to that change.”

Insulation upgrades result in $4,000/year savings for 100-year-old NB home

June 24 2016, 09:19 AM

Insulation upgrades result in $4,000/year savings for 100-year-old NB home

It was spring of 2015 when Kyle Boucher bought his 100-year-old Hillsborough home, and though the weather was mild at the time, it wasn’t long before he realized he would need to invest in some energy efficiency upgrades.

“You could stand in the attic and look straight down to the basement,” he says. There wasn’t much – if any - insulation to be found throughout the two-story home.

That fall, knowing that incentives were available through NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program, Kyle registered for the program and had a pre-upgrade evaluation completed on his home.

During a two hour visit to Kyle’s home, an energy advisor measured and documented insulation levels in the basement, attic and walls, and determined air leakage rates and priority areas with a blower door test.

Armed with the advice and recommendations of his home’s personalized energy evaluation, Kyle proceeded to spray foam the attic, basement walls and header and main walls in the home. By insulating with spray foam, Kyle simultaneously improved the home’s air tightness by 26%. He also swapped his home heating systems from wood and oil to a heat pump.

Kyle spent approximately $8,500 insulating his home and he received an incentive from NB Power for $6,200. Thanks to the added insulation and air-sealing in Kyle’s home, the estimated annual energy savings are approximately $4,000 each year, giving him a payback of less than one year.

Participants save an average of $1000 on their annual electricity bill and receive an average of $1960 back in incentive for insulation and air sealing upgrades.

With the savings, Kyle plans to continue to invest in his home’s energy efficiency, starting with a heat recovery ventilation system installation.

“Without the incentives, I wouldn’t have been able to do the upgrades, or add the right amount of insulation to the house,” Kyle says. “If I could say anything to other New Brunswickers, it is to get going and just do it. It is a really great opportunity to get help from NB Power to add insulation to your home, which is something that almost everyone can benefit from.”

 

Keeping safe around Hydro facilities

June 2 2016, 14:41 PM

Keeping safe around Hydro facilities

Did you know how quickly the water flows change above and below NB Power’s 7 hydro facilities?

As electricity demands change for the province, during peak times of the day dam gates are opened and closed regularly. These changes can result in rapid water level and flow changes above and below dam structures.

Water in the head ponds above hydro dams and stations and the waters directly below them are particularly dangerous. Fast-moving water coming from the station or dam creates dangerous turbulence and strong undercurrents.

We work to ensure all safety measures are in place so people understand the risk involved in getting too close to a hydro dam. 

All of our hydro stations operate remotely from the Mactaquac Generating Station. These facilities can release water at any time, any day of the year. This means that calm waters can suddenly turn into rapids with strong undertows that can easily pull you under water.

Areas inside warning signs, buoys and booms are extremely dangerous.

 

Here’s an example of how quickly the water can change- this is the same spot near one of our facilities- just a few minutes apart.

Remotely operated gates at the dam release large volumes of water that could leave you stranded, swamp your boat or put in in the undertow of water current.

Above a dam, the intake currents are strong. This is why we’re installing additional safety measures, such as booms (large yellow barrier hooked to anchors) above the Mactaquac dam to keep boaters and swimmers safe from entering the fast currents of the dam entry points.

 

New safety boom recently installed at the Mactaquac Generating Station. 

Signs and Fencing

NB Power follows the Canadian Dam Association’s guidelines to make sure people are aware of the risks near hydro dams. There are signs and fencing around our hydro stations in the locations identified below.

These exist for your protection. They make sure people aren’t caught up in a changing water flow and unable to get to safety.

Lights, Cameras and Audio

We have installed video cameras below the dams that provide control room operators the ability to check the area below the dam before changing the operation of the dam that will change water flows. These cameras are not completely reliable on their own, especially if it is at night. There are also strobe lights and alarm sounds to signal the change in water flows. These signal the water flows are going to change - and indicates to people in the vicinity to get out of harm’s way.

Another beautiful part of our province is the Grand Falls Gorge which has evolved into a tourist attraction with zip lines, kayaking and camping. People come for fun in the sun with a beautiful view.  However, it is crucial for people to recognize the dangers associated with the gorge.

Grand Falls generating station operates by step spillage. This procedure is in place to prevent the release of large amounts of water all at once but rather through a series of smaller discharge steps over a period of time so to reduce the potential hazard downstream should anyone be present. 

Here is a time lapse video a hydraulic assessment at La Rochelle. This is a 12,000 CFS step discharge.

In case of an emergency near a hydro dam, call 911 immediately.

 

Tree Trimming: What you need to know about our program and how to spot problem trees

May 19 2016, 11:11 AM

Tree Trimming: What you need to know about our program and how to spot problem trees

NB Power’s certified arborists and tree maintenance contractors work hard year round to keep NB Power’s lines clear of trees and branches that threaten the reliability of our system and your safety.

We work with certified tree maintenance contractors from across New Brunswick to complete this planned maintenance work around power lines.

To reduce the impacts of major storms on our infrastructure, we’re focusing our efforts this year on tree maintenance along high voltage power lines near urban centres.

Similar to how we prioritize power restoration after a major storm, we plan our tree maintenance with a focus on the larger power distribution areas first. If a main line has an issue with a tree, the sidelines will be impacted as well, which will leave many more people without power during a major storm.

We’ve tasked 13 certified tree contractors to cut and prune problem trees and shrubs along lines in the areas that have experienced more frequent tree-related power interruptions over the past year.  

Since New Brunswick is heavily forested, our contractors need to work as efficiently as possible to ensure we can keep on top of tree growth before it becomes a problem. Keeping the crews focused on our scheduled maintenance plan is also essential to keeping costs associated with unplanned interruptions from this work at a minimum. 

When we receive a customer request for tree removal, these crews must take their focus off this scheduled work to remove trees from the customer’s property if the request meets our requirements.

Before contacting NB Power to have an assessment of your problem tree, please consider the following criteria, which will save time for you and our crews.

Identifying a problem tree

  1. First and foremost, is the tree on your property? If not, the property owner will have to contact us to inquire about the tree.
  2. Is the tree close to a power line?
  3. Is the tree uprooted or leaning more than 30 degrees toward the line? 
  4. Is the power line scorching any part of the tree?
  5. Is the tree dead? (There would be no leaves or needles or reddish/brown needles)

To determine if your tree is diseased or dying, look for the following:

  • discoloured blotches or dead areas on the leaves
  • dead branches
  • insects borrowing into the trunk
  • break / split in the tree
  • noticeable hole in the trunk
  • missing bark on the trunk

Under the customer requested program, NB Power does not remove or maintain any type of vegetation that is not a risk to power reliability.  

Keep an eye on the lines

There are 2 types of power lines that you will see near your property that belong to NB Power. If your tree is leaning near the lines that are highest up- this is a primary wire, which is high voltage and very dangerous.

The line closer to the ground is a service wire, and it carries medium voltage electricity to your home.

Any tree maintenance required near these lines should only be performed either by NB Power or an authorized contractor. Never attempt to cut or prune these trees yourself.  

40% of customer calls to NB Power result in deferrals to the regular preventative maintenance schedule or cancellations due to the above criteria not being met.

Contractors hired to complete the tree work on NB Power’s behalf are fully qualified to safely cut trees around power lines. This type of work requires a specialized skill set and should never be completed by someone who is not qualified to work around electrical lines. These contractors include:

 

Coughlan Tree Service

Fredericton

447-0319

Fundy Tree Trimming

Sussex/Rothesay

433-2054

Démonteur D'arbres du Nord-Ouest /NorthWest Tree Trimming

Edmundston

580-7209

Asplundh Tree Service

Fredericton

260-1750

Hanna's Contracting and Tree Service

Chatham/Shediac/Sackville

773-9967

NorthEast Tree Trimming

Tracadie/Bathurst/Campbelton

727-4263

Maritime Tree Trimming

Tracadie/Bathurst/Campbelton

395-3180

Treecologic

Fredericton

440-5325

Desjardins Tree Trimming

Grand Falls/Edmundston

445-3128

Wildwood Tree Service

Fredericton

292-8899

Laforest n Sons

Grand Falls/Miramichi

479-1919

Travelling Seed Care

Moncton

227-6016

 

 

Renewable alternatives for the Mactaquac Generating Station

May 17 2016, 08:47 AM

Renewable alternatives for the Mactaquac Generating Station

We have a big decision to make about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station. The station is nearing the end of its life, and NB Power is considering what to do next. Whatever is decided will have a big impact on the environment and the people who live and work near the station and to all customers. That’s why NB Power is working with experts and the public to find out what those impacts might be, and how to lessen them.

If the Mactaquac Generating Station is not rebuilt, NB Power needs to replace the lost power with renewable energy.

New Brunswick’s power grid today

Almost 100 hundred years ago, NB Power started to deliver power to homes and businesses in the province. NB Power’s grid expanded over the years from a small hydro plant in Musquash to 13 nuclear, hydro, coal, oil and diesel powered stations, as well as power purchase agreements from various privately-owned renewable and natural gas-powered facilities.

Power is delivered through 6,800 kilometers of transmission lines and more than 20,000 kilometers of distribution lines to about 394,000 customers.

NB Power’s customers are New Brunswick homes, farms, churches and seasonal properties, for example camps and lodges. Power is also delivered to retail stores, hotels, restaurants, offices, hospitals, schools and universities, as well as plants and workshops.

If Mactaquac isn’t rebuilt, how will you replace the power from Mactaquac?

In case the headpond is retained without power generation or the river is restored to a natural flow, NB Power must replace the power from Mactaquac with renewable energy.

This is in accord with the Renewable Portfolio Standard that demands that NB Power generates 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2020 like:

  • Biomass:

Biomass is defined as organic material gained directly from plants. It is produced through photosynthesis, the process used by plants to convert the sun’s energy into chemical energy. Through burning, the chemical energy can be turned into energy that can be used as heat or power.

  • Biogas:

Biogas is fermented organic matter (manure, waste, plant and algal material) which produces gas. This gas is used to create heat and then steam which turns a turbine to generate electricity.

  • Solar:

Solar power can be captured either through photovoltaic or thermal energy. You may have seen solar panels on roofs or fields before.

  • Hydro:

Hydro power generates electricity from the movement of water through a channel or pipe into a turbine. The flowing water makes contact with turbine blades, causing the shaft to rotate. The rotating shaft is connected to an electrical generator that converts the rotating shaft motion into electrical energy. Click here to see a video of how hydrogeneration works.

  • Ocean:

Ocean power is a form of hydropower that converts the energy of tides or waves, into electricity or other useful forms of power.

Tidal stream turbines draw energy from water currents in a way similar to how wind turbines draw energy from wind. The higher density of water (which is 800 times the density of air) means that a single generator can provide significant power at low tidal flow velocities (compared with wind speed.)

Wave power captures the movement of waves using devices such as buoy-like structures that convert wave motion to mechanical energy, which is then converted into electricity and transmitted to shore over a submerged transmission line.

  • Enhanced Geothermal:

Enhanced geothermal systems inject cold water under high pressure into underground rock formations. This water travels through the fractured rock capturing heat until it becomes very hot and is forced to the surface through a second borehole. A steam turbine and generator can be used to convert the energy in the heated water to electricity.

  • Wind:

When wind passes through the blades of a wind turbine, it makes them spin. The rotating shaft of the turbine is connected to an electrical generator which converts the rotating shaft motion into electrical energy. Click here to see a video of how wind generation works.

  • Renewable purchases: e.g. from Quebec or Newfoundland

Making a future power grid with renewables sustainable in New Brunswick

New Brunswick sees short high peaks of electricity demand during the winter months, normally in January and February. These peaks can be double what the electricity demands are during the summer. Since storing renewable energy is still in its beginnings, meeting these demands with renewables only can be challenging because of the variability and intermittency of some renewable resources. NB Power often relies on fossil fuel burning during these times to ensure reliable supply, which can cost millions of dollars every year.

Energy efficiency is also crucial. NB Power’s partnership with Siemens, different rebate programs and initiatives such as Beat the Peak encourage all New Brunswickers to adapt smart habits that help reduce and shift energy demands by taking small steps that avoid paying for electricity we don’t need.

What do you think about renewable energy resources and their place on our grid? Tell us in the comments below.

 

 

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