June 7 2018, 11:08 AM
“The cheapest power is the power you don’t use” is a pretty good mantra at the beginning of an energy diet, or an energy efficiency journey, whatever you want to call it.
My husband and I have been on that path for a while now. For environmental and economic reasons we have been deliberate about what we consume and have put a lot of effort into using less power.
We thought we were doing very well, or assumed we were, anyway. It was an “I care, therefore I am” kind of approach to reducing the amount of power that we were using -- I care therefore I must be using less power than everyone else.
But then we received our first home energy report.
The home energy report is a year-old initiative by NB Power to help New Brunswick households use less power. The idea is that if you actually understand how your power use compares to your neighbours’ power use you might decide to do something about it.
For us it was a bit more fundamental than that. Without an energy consumption benchmark, my husband and I could have gone on for years assuming that we were in the “green zone” and had nearly reached our capacity for household energy reduction. As it turns out, according to the energy report we’re pretty much in the middle when compared to comparable houses in our vicinity.
NB Power’s home energy report has been our reality check, but it has also been a great source of info and guidance on our journey to reduce our household energy consumption.
The online tool has been the greatest benefit. While the paper print out that we received in the mail is a simple snapshot, the online energy report is a real resource.
If you truly want to reduce your household power consumption, for your pocketbook, the environment, or both, here are the sections of the online tool that I have found most helpful:
Under the tab “My Energy Use” you’ll be able to see your usage details, which parts of your home use the most energy and you’ll be able to compare your bills month over month or year over year. It’s this comparison tool that I find the most helpful. The tool factors in the number of billing days and the weather to provide a true comparison of your monthly spend. From there you can single out any behaviours or activities that lead to a change (or not) month over month.
Every step along the way offers ideas on how to use less power, including the top five tips for saving energy customized to your household (shaving an hour off shower time and ensuring our refrigerator seals are tight…) Many of the tips might seem like common sense (turn out the lights when you leave the room) but we can all use reminders from time to time.
Customers who interact with the tool online appreciate its value. That makes sense to me. The tool is empowering and encouraging and reminds you that there is always more you can do to use less power.
To get the most benefit out of the home energy report, visit www.nbpower.com/homeenergyreport and complete your household profile. From there you can explore the energy savings tips that make sense to your household. The data you submit includes how many people live in your home, the approximate square footage of your home, whether you use efficient light bulbs, how you heat your home, the age of your heating system, if you have a stand-alone freezer or a second fridge, the type of fuel your hot water heater uses, the kinds of electronics in your home, and more.
(The information you provide not only creates a more accurate comparison for you, it enables the database to make more customized efficiency recommendations for your household, based on what uses the most energy.)
We shouldn’t expect power rates to drop -- that simply doesn’t make sense in the world today. Instead, focus on something that does make sense, and something that you can control, which is finding ways to use less power. If that’s your goal, the home energy report might be your greatest helper.
Bridget Oland is a Saint John-based green living blogger with a passion for sustainable living, gardening, and spending time with her two kids. You can find out more at Bridget’s Green Kitchen.
May 1 2018, 13:41 PM
NB Power’s hydro facilities are located along the Saint John River system. They are “run of river” facilities with very little storage capability. Storage is measured in hours, unlike larger facilities like Churchill Falls in Labrador which can store water for months. Water coming from upstream into the headponds must be used for generation at that moment, or must be allowed to bypass the dam. Put simply, the water that flows in must flow out.
The Mactaquac Generating Station at full load passes water through at 80,000 cubic feet per second. Any flow greater than that must pass through the spill gates. In 2018, the Saint John River flows at Mactaquac were more than 300,000 cubic feet per second. As a result, water at Mactaquac was passing through the spillways. At high flows, above plant generating capacity, the water coming in must be released immediately to maintain the proper slope on the headpond to allow the river to flow downstream.
Essentially the river returns to its natural state during high flow events. In order to maintain the natural flow of the river and allow the water to pass the facilities safely, NB Power has very specific operating guidelines.
Water naturally runs downhill. Increased water flow requires there is adequate slope on the river or headpond to continue the natural flow of the river. In order to accomplish this, NB Power lowers the Mactaquac headpond level at the dam to maintain this slope, thus allowing the passage of natural river flow. When the river flow decreases, the headpond level will return to normal levels.
In the lower Saint John River Basin the Reversing Falls in Saint John creates a natural barrier in the river system that is essentially the narrow end of the funnel. With the current river flows being greater than 300,000 cubic feet per second, approximately only half of that water can pass through the falls at low tide. As a result, a bathtub effect is created in the lower basin whereby the water that is not able to pass through the falls backs up and cause flooding. This is compounded during sustained high flows like New Brunswick is currently experiencing.
Higher than average snow fall in North Western New Brunswick and Northern Maine coupled with rain events has resulted in these sustained high flows.
NB Power is constantly observing and communicating river and station conditions with the goal of operating facilities with the least possible impact on the natural flow of the river while doing everything possible to keep its infrastructure and people safe.
April 19 2018, 11:42 AM
Running a small business isn’t easy.
If you own or run a small company in New Brunswick, you juggle dozens of responsibilities every single day. One of those is managing your operating costs.
We’re here to help. Through our Small Business Lighting Program, Bathurst’s Big D Drive-Ins Diner was able to upgrade their lighting and will save $1,400 annually.
With a $2,592 incentive from NB Power, Big D Drive-Ins invested $6,020 into lighting upgrades – replacing their incandescent, metal halide and T12 lights with more efficient LED ones. Their estimated monthly savings of $120 translates to around $1,400 annually.
“We are extremely happy with our results thanks to the Small Business Lighting Program. As New Brunswick’s only drive-in restaurant, it is very important for us to be well-lit, especially in the winter months,” said Richard Dobson, owner of Big D Drive-Ins Diner. “Our business is now more visible, for less cost.”
Businesses participating in the program will save money on their monthly electricity bill, and also get a rebate of $0.17 for every kilowatt hour saved up to $7,500.
Eligible businesses work with an approved service provider to identify the right changes for their building. That can include things like new light fixtures, bulbs and controls that will help reduce the amount of energy consumed. We will review the statement of work for your upgrades and then you have 120 days to complete them and submit your claim for the rebate payment.
Just like that, up to $7,500 in your pocket.
New and improved lighting will make your business better. Customers will have a better view of your business, greater visibility means increased safety and you will create an overall better work environment for your employees.
You’ll also continue to enjoy longer-term savings every month with lower electricity bills. What can you do to grow your business with these savings?
Plus, you’re doing your part for the environment. Cutting down on electricity consumption means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Who qualifies for the program? You’re in luck if you own, manage or lease a building in New Brunswick that is at least two years old and consumes less than 100 MWh/yr. You also must be an NB Power Service I or II customer (or the equivalent category with Saint John Energy, Edmundston Energy or Perth-Andover Light Commission.) And, your account has to be in good standing.
If you don’t qualify for the Small Building Lighting Program, check out our Commercial Building Retrofit Program for larger businesses and buildings in New Brunswick.
Don't delay. Get started on saving with the Small Business Lighting Program.
March 8 2018, 10:50 AM
Carolyn Campbell’s family-oriented focus is apparent when speaking with her and she understands the benefits of positive role models while raising her young daughter, especially in her line of work.
Carolyn is an Environmental Specialist at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. It was family that brought her back to New Brunswick in 2007, after working in Ontario for three years. She now lives in the Saint John area, where she grew up.
“Being away from my family was difficult for me,” she said. “Now that I am a mom myself, I couldn’t imagine not having my family nearby. I couldn’t survive without their support.”
Her role with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission brought her back home, where she got to work closely with employees at Point Lepreau. It wasn’t until last year though, after taking a short hiatus from the nuclear industry that Carolyn returned to the point, but this time as an NB Power employee. As soon as she was back, she knew it was the right place to be.
“Since the day I started, actually even on the day of my interview, I felt like I was coming home, and was surrounded by family,” she said. “Everyone wants to see you succeed. They want the team to succeed. And that is something I have not felt in any other place I’ve worked. It is pretty special, and the people are what make Lepreau an amazing place to work.”
As an Environmental Specialist Carolyn works to ensure that NB Power is meeting environmental regulatory commitments. She does this through data collection and analysis for submission into monthly and annual reports. She also helps work groups understand the potential environmental risks of the work they are doing, and works with them to mitigate the risks. She spends a lot of time in the field at PLNGS to ensure that we are always doing the right thing when it comes to protecting the environment.
She also liaises with regulatory agencies, our corporate office, and sometimes other NB Power facilities to understand and apply provincial and federal regulations, and then relay those regulations to the appropriate individuals in the field doing the work.
Outside of work, Carolyn is helping the next generation of New Brunswick women discover the joy of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. She mentors with Skills Canada NB and volunteers with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick (APEGNB) to give presentations to high schools.
“STEM careers are exploding and having women in New Brunswick in these roles shows the young women and girls here that it’s possible. It gives them a goal to aspire to, and most importantly, it lets them know that they can do anything that they want to do. That’s what I tell my 7 year old daughter as often as I can,” she adds. “Women and girls have amazing ideas, many have interests that are within the STEM field and have so much to contribute.”
Carolyn believes it’s important to share stories like hers because people are always looking for people who remind them of themselves.
“The more people share, the more likely someone is to see something that they can relate to, and help them realize that they can accomplish the same kinds of things.”
January 24 2018, 15:09 PM
In New Brunswick, many homes are heated with electricity, so it’s no surprise that our homes use more energy in the winter. Space heating can account for 50% of homeowners annual energy use. So every time you crank that thermostat, it could end up being costly.
But there are some ways you can help fight the power bill blues this winter. Let’s take a look!
- Seal up drafts
Draft proofing is one of the most important upgrades you can make it in your home. It’s also one of the easiest and least expensive.
Fixing air leaks can save you up to 20% on your bills and make your home more comfortable by actually keeping your heat inside. Learn how to draft proof your home.
- Use a programmable thermostat
Turning down the heat may sound like a weird thing to do when it’s -20 outside, but just turning your thermostat back 3° when you’re either away from home, or asleep can add up in savings on your bill. Did you know many older dial-style thermostats can be off by as much as 3 – 5° C Celsius? That can start to add up on your winter bills. Programmable thermostats are more accurate and let you automatically set temperatures based on your schedule. Learn how to program your thermostat.
- Add more insulation
Want to get serious about bringing down your winter bills? Try upgrading your insulation- it’s the investment that will have the biggest impact on your energy use, especially if you have an older home.
Basements can be a major source of heat loss for homes of any age. Uninsulated basements can account for a whopping 20% of a home’s total heat loss. Attics can be another culprit of heat loss in homes during the winter. If you look at your attic’s insulation and its 12 inches or less, you should add more so it reaches an r-value of 60.
Not sure where to get started? Sign up for an energy evaluation of your home through our Home Insulation program. Our Energy Advisors will give you a list of recommended upgrades based on your home’s unique needs. Make the upgrades and we’ll give you money back too!
- Balance out your bills
Take the surprise out of opening your bill during winter months by setting up an Equalized Payment Plan. You’ll pay the same, equal amount each month based on how much energy you used in the last year. Any energy you used that was more or less than your monthly payments will go into a bank and you’ll either get a credit or have a balance at the end of the year when your settlement month comes around. Pro-tip- set your equalized plan up in the fall to avoid settling in the winter months when your usage is higher.
- Monitor your energy use
A great way to lower your energy use, is to better understand how much you’re using. Do you need to upgrade your fridge? Is your TV sucking energy when you’re at work? How much of an impact is the weather having? You can log into your NB Power online account and visit the Home Energy Report portal to see your monthly use and a breakdown of where it’s coming from. You’ll also get personalized tips to help you bring your bills down.
To measure the power and energy use of a specific device, consider borrowing one of our appliance meters from the public library. They are easy to use, but make sure you read the short manual first! Get started here.
Having trouble keeping up with your bills?
We understand there may be many reasons why you may not be able to pay your bill on time during the winter months. We can help by setting up a payment plan with you to help you get back on track. Just give us a call at 1 855 331-9633 or log in to your NB Power account and select payment arrangements. We’re happy to work with you to find the best solution for your situation. The Government of New Brunswick has programs to help with high winter bills.