Importance to New Brunswick
The Energy Commission identified low and stable prices or rates as one of five key energy objectives for New Brunswick. Low and stable energy prices have a direct impact on total energy costs, which have a dramatic effect on business and personal finances. They influence the competitiveness of businesses and determine the amount of disposable income for consumers to invest, save or spend on other goods and services. Energy costs are determined by the price per unit (including delivery charges) and the quantity consumed. Thus to reduce energy costs, one can either reduce the price per unit or minimize consumption.
We are exposed to the price component of the cost of energy directly through the prices we pay for electricity, natural gas or gasoline.We are also exposed indirectly through the prices we pay for all other goods and services, each of which has an energy cost component that is passed on to the consumer.
Fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are free market commodities, actively traded on continental and global markets. As a result, Government has little or no ability to control these prices. The costs of these inputs are in turn reflected in the price of petroleum products, natural gas and in much of our thermally generated electricity. Imported electricity is also a market-traded commodity, and its price is also based on supply and demand, or economic conditions in jurisdictions other than our own.
There are areas, however, where government can affect the end price of energy. In the case of NB Power, a Crown corporation, Government can ensure that it is run efficiently under the right structure and with the proper mandates in order to reduce the cost of electricity to customers. Utilities such as Enbridge Gas New Brunswick – which holds the natural gas distribution franchise in New Brunswick – and NB Power must appear before the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) to justify distribution rates to customers and ensure they are fair and reasonable. The EUB also administers weekly petroleum price regulation to ensure price stability and fairness. The objectives of government policy, therefore, are to keep energy prices as low as possible over time, to act as a buffer, where possible, to avoid price shock from volatile commodity prices, and to maintain competitive rates as compared with peer jurisdictions.
Although it is impossible to isolate New Brunswickers from the impacts of variable energy prices and global energy market dynamics, our Government remains committed to implementing energy policies that add efficiency to our Crown electric utility and electricity market, and add transparency to consumer petroleum product prices. Our Government's commitment to low and stable energy prices will have a particularly favourable impact on low and fixed income New Brunswickers, where energy costs account for a much higher proportion of household expenditures.