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Mactaquac and the New Brunswick power grid

March 22 2016, 14:47 PM

Mactaquac and the New Brunswick power grid

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. 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. NB Power will recommend a path forward in 2016. In this week’s blog post, we’ll take you through how Mactaquac fits into New Brunswick’s energy mix and why this decision is so important.

Why was Mactaquac built in the first place?

Mactaquac was built between 1965 and 1968. At the time, the Mactaquac Generating Station was the largest single engineering project in the history of New Brunswick. The project promised more energy on the grid, more jobs through increased productivity of businesses and more outdoor recreational area around the newly created headpond. When it was built, the station was expected to last 100 years.

How important is Mactaquac for the New Brunswick grid?

The Mactaquac Generating Station can produce approximately 670 megawatts of electricity for New Brunswick homes and businesses, which is about 12 % of all the electricity NB Power provides annually. For NB Power, Mactaquac is more than a generating station. It delivers essential services that support a safe, reliable and diverse power grid. In the unlikely event of all stations going offline, Mactaquac’s generators can deliver enough power to kick-start the grid. The headpond also acts as a reserve in case NB Power needs extra load to meet peak demands. NB Power’s 7 hydro stations that over the course of a year generate renewable energy that equates to about 25 % of what is consumed in New Brunswick.


Why did NB Power choose these three options as they are?

The station’s anticipated end of service life is around 2030. NB Power is looking at 3 options: repower, retaining the headpond (no power) and river restoration. These options were chosen for consideration because they are considered technically achievable, and they provide a long-term solution to problems facing the current station. While the options are being studied, NB Power continues to investigate whether new strategies can be adopted to prolong the station’s life and at what cost.

Why don’t you just repower?

As a public utility, NB Power understands that any course of action regarding Mactaquac had far-reaching consequences for all New Brunswickers. There are cost, environmental, social, and engineering impacts to be considered. This is why NB Power is consulting with the public and experts on the choices ahead.


Is your home leaking money?

March 16 2016, 16:20 PM

Is your home leaking money?

Older, drafty homes – and in particular, homes built before 1945 that were constructed with little to no insulation – have the biggest potential when it comes to saving money through energy efficiency upgrades. And one of the most overlooked upgrades for homes is insulation.

Insulation: it’s not as sexy as a new granite countertop, but the savings realized through your upgrades might just pay for one. Many homeowners don’t realize that adding insulation is one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ upgrades they can carry out.

You probably already know your home needs additional insulation and/or air sealing if:

  • the walls are cold to touch;
  • you have problems with mold on walls;
  • the floors are cold;
  • you can feel drafts;
  • you have high winter heating bills.

If you experience some, or all, of these problems, your home could benefit from NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program. The program offers information and incentives to homeowners to help reduce their energy consumption through targeted air sealing and insulation upgrades.

Participating is easy! Just follow these 5 steps:

1-      Register. Go to and complete the online registration form. If you do not have internet access you may call 1 800 663-6272 (select option 5).

2-      Energy Evaluation. A representative will contact you to set up your Pre-Upgrade Evaluation. This evaluation will identify the upgrades to your home that may be eligible for incentives. The fee for the evaluation is $210+HST.

3-      Receive approval. After the evaluation, you’ll receive a list of recommended upgrades and a pre-approval form. You have 30 days to identify which of those upgrades you wish to complete and return the form to us.

4-      Complete upgrades. Once we have confirmed your participation in this program, you will have nine months to finish your planned upgrades.

5-      Have Post-Upgrade Evaluation and receive incentives. As soon as you’re finished your upgrades (or before the nine month deadline), call us at 1 800 663-6272 to book a Post-Upgrade Evaluation (no cost)

Have you already participated in NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program? Are you seeing savings and feeling more comfortable in your home this winter? We’d love to hear your story!

What’s the problem with Mactaquac Generating Station?

March 10 2016, 14:29 PM

What’s the problem with 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. 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. NB Power will recommend a path forward in 2016. This blog post is the first in a series that will introduce you to each aspect of the process of finding a recommended solution.

Since the 1980s, the concrete structures at Mactaquac have been expanding due to a chemical reaction known as alkali-aggregate reaction. But what is alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR) and what does it do? 

Alkali-aggregate reaction is a chemical reaction. As you may know, concrete is a mix of cement, rock, sand and water. When alkalis in the cement react with silica in the rock, it produces silica gel. Silica gel absorbs water and swells. This swelling gel causes concrete to expand.

Hundreds of hydro stations, bridges and other structures around the world have been affected by AAR. It also affects the concrete portions of the Mactaquac Generating Station (highlighted in yellow).

The earthen dam that retains Mactaquac headpond is a rock-filled structure sealed with clay and does not have AAR problems.


Where did the concrete come from?

When the dam was built, the rock was crushed and made into concrete at the site. It’s similar to rock that was used at that time to make concrete in the Fredericton area. But once AAR was discovered at Mactaquac, Fredericton area concrete plants had to find alternative sources of concrete aggregate.

How much has the concrete at Mactaquac expanded? 

The concrete expansion varies widely. The most extreme numbers are a rate of 0.12 mm for every meter of concrete. While this doesn’t seem like much, for a structure that is 42 meters tall, it adds up to 5mm/year. The movement of the concrete slowly shifts embedded equipment such as turbines, generators, gates and pipes.  This must be addressed, because it can affect the operation of this equipment. 


What’s done to keep the station operating?

NB Power employees at Mactaquac operate and maintain the station 24/7 year round. NB Power has different solutions to manage the effect of AAR, for example, slot cuts were made into the concrete with diamond wire.   

The earthen dam that retains the Mactaquac headpond is a rock-filled structure sealed with clay and does not have AAR problems. This massive rock structure relies on its weight to resist the force of the river while protecting the clay core that prevents water coming through. 

How do you know the dam will reach the end of its service life by 2030? 

Since 1994, there have been regular engineering studies that looked at when the concrete main spillway, diversion sluiceway and the powerhouse will need to be replaced. These studies have shown that, without significant repairing or rebuilding, the existing structures will need to be replaced by 2030. 

Can you extend the life expectancy of Mactaquac to avoid a massive project or until a better solution comes up? 

We are examining if we can extend the life of the station beyond 2030. We work with independent experts to see if we can make more repairs to the concrete or partially replace some of the concrete parts. This work is being done in parallel with the studies being conducted to determine the best option for replacement, should it be required. All this work must be completed so that a decision can be made at the end of 2016 and work completed by 2030.

Protect yourself against fraud

March 2 2016, 10:43 AM

Protect yourself against fraud

Scam artists are clever. They always find new ways to trick you to give them your personal information or money. That’s why it’s crucial you stay alert and informed to protect yourself and your family.

Fraudsters pressure their targets in giving out personal information or payments. They pretend to be an employee or third party representative from a company like NB Power.

Here are three quick steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:


1)       Trust your gut feeling. Are you receiving a call that doesn’t sound right? An offer too good to be true? Hang up the phone. If you doubt you’re speaking with an NB Power employee, report it to the Canada Anti Fraud Centre 

2)       Be careful when opening links. Fraudsters pretend to send emails that look like utility bills and ask you to open a link to view your bill. This is known as a phishing scam. Without your noticing, this link can download viruses and malicious software to your computer and steal personal information from your files.

3)       Don’t give out your credit card information. NB Power has policies in place to protect your information, and we will never ask for your financial information or payments by credit card over the phone or in person at your door.

If you receive suspicious phone calls from people claiming to be from NB Power, please hang up the phone and contact us immediately. You should also report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud centre by calling 1 888 495-8501 or by going to


Sometimes scam artists claiming to be from NB Power threaten to immediately disconnect your electricity service. Before an account becomes eligible for disconnection for non-payment, we make many attempts to reach an agreement that is suitable for you and us.

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation, you can avoid disconnection for non-payment if all of the following criteria are met. You must:


1)       contact NB Power to discuss your account, and

2)       continue to make mutually-agreed upon payments on your outstanding balance, and

3)       be willing to work with NB Power to understand your energy consumption.

We understand there are many reasons why you may not be able to pay your bill on time. If this is the case, we can discuss options to make this process easier for you. Visit our website to learn more.

Anyone can become a fraud victim. Stay alert and inform your family and friends about the dangers of fraud.

Why we want you to use less electricity

February 29 2016, 08:55 AM

Why we want you to use less electricity

This might sound like a strange idea – a power company wanting you to use less of the product they sell.

You might be skeptical and think this isn’t good for business. But NB Power wants you to use less.

Here’s our President and CEO, Gaëtan Thomas to help explain how it’s going to help the company and our customers over the long run.

Gaëtan Thomas - President and CEO

Regardless of where you live in North America, we all use electricity in similar ways – especially in the mornings before work and the period around suppertime. They’re called “peak” times.

As New Brunswickers, we use nearly 3x as much electricity on a cold winter day as we do on a nice sunny day in June. That’s due in large part because 60% of New Brunswick homes heat with electric heating systems.

That means NB Power needs to have additional generating stations available to supply customer needs in the winter. These are called peaking plants and they sit idle much of the rest of the year. Their power is expensive and largely comes from fossil-fuels. Because our costs are reflected in our rates, meeting these peaks increases all of our monthly bills and impacts the environment of our province. 

What if we could still provide the comfort and heat you desire on those cold winter days but without needing all that “extra” generation? What if we could all save money by doing so?

That’s our goal right now, and the way to do that is for all of us as energy consumers to better understand how we use electricity and then to develop smart habits that will help us both reduce our energy use and shift it to off-peak, or less expensive and greener, times of the day. 

This change isn’t going to happen overnight and so we’re going through a managed transition right now that will ensure we protect the electrical system in New Brunswick and keep rates low and stable over time

The benefits to all of us will be tremendous. We’ll have a greener grid, emit less greenhouse gases and avoid nearly $1 Billion dollars in costs that will be passed on to you as savings  through rate stability over time, helping to keep our rates among the lowest in Canada.

We are making progress toward these goals, and that will only accelerate with the help of our energy efficiency programs and through the roll out of new smart products and programs  over the next few years.

Saving power doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the things you enjoy. There are simple steps you can take to change your energy habits like turning off the lights when you leave a room, setting a programmable thermostat to come before you wake up and waiting to do laundry or dishes until later in the evening.

Making simple behaviour changes like these are not only a great place to start, but can help save on your bill, without sacrificing your comfort. Working together in this way, we can have a huge impact on the future of electricity and the environment in our province.



Learn more about what we’re doing to solve the peak problem in New Brunswick in this video.

Do you want to use less electricity? Tell us how you will help reduce energy demand in NB in the comments below!


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