SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — The New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers have moved closer to creating a regional block for the development of renewable energy and a green economy.
The governors and premiers, who have forged partnerships over the years, devoted this year’s annual meeting to the prospects for renewable energy and the energy corridor that will carry that power through the region.
“The future is unlimited,” New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said at the conclusion of the two-day gathering in Saint John. “There are a number of projects that will position New Brunswick at the forefront but we need the partnerships.”
Maine Gov. John Baldacci, co-chair of the conference, said the region’s leaders need to have a unified vision for energy.
“That will make sure others don’t dictate our future,” he said.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams agreed, warning that the governors and premiers must find a regional solution before one is imposed by their two federal governments.
The three N.E. governors and five eastern Canadian premiers agreed to several resolutions, including one to discuss the types of contracts, pricing mechanisms and regulatory approvals that offer the best opportunities for success in the region’s electricity marketplaces.
“We are at one of those axis moments in history for energy in the region,” said Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri. “We need to put everything we possibly can into getting this thing pulled together.”
The leaders also agreed that renewable energy includes hydropower — an important decision for Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
“Hydroelectric power, even from hydroelectric dams, is being defined as a renewable resource for the purpose of meeting the objectives of renewable resource portfolios in the United States,” Charest said. “That support for us is extremely important. It is the first time the premiers and governors have expressed unanimously their position on this.”
He said Quebec is in the process of obtaining approval to build a 1,200 megawatt hydroelectric line from his province into New Hampshire.
Charest said the U.S. market is big enough for all of the eastern provinces to make lucrative energy sales. “It’s a big enough market that all of us can sell energy to it.”
Dave Coon of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said the New England states are hungry for power from renewable sources.
“Right now in New England, power plants are capped for greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“So they have to find alternatives and that means renewables from eastern Canada. The potential for renewables is nowhere near as great in New England as it is here.”
He said the states are looking especially for wind, tidal and hydropower.
Kenneth Irving, president of Fort Reliance, Irving Oil’s parent company, warned the meeting about putting too much emphasis on just one energy source.
He said it’s good to create an energy corridor into New England, but it should be able to handle power lines, natural gas and other energy supplies, depending on future demand.
“We should have strategies that are flexible enough to respond to the future as it reveals itself,” Irving said.
Graham said he heard the message about the need for more renewables and he agreed that the energy corridor through New Brunswick needs to be flexible.
“We need to be able to look at opportunities pertaining to natural gas, hydrogen and other energy sources that will be developed as our economies advance,” he said. “New transmission capacity is key to the economic viability and success of this region.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.