Enbridge Gas New Brunswick has publically shared its concerns that the amendments made by the current government to the Gas Distribution Act could threaten future investment in growing the natural gas distribution system. Despite the Government’s assertions that changes made to the Act will allow for lower natural gas rates and contribute to increased use of the system, the changes severely limit our ability to expand and attract new customers as Enbridge Gas New Brunswick must implement significant operational changes and cut future investment.
Throughout the development of the distribution system, we have been able to provide financial incentives to support growth and help customers offset the cost of converting to, or building with, natural gas. As of May 31, 2012, due to limited access to capital, these incentives will no longer be available. Now, only those willing to bear the full cost of conversion will choose natural gas and be attached to the distribution system.
Our inability to earn a fair return on our investment or generate sufficient revenue from operations also significantly impacts new investment in expanding the distribution system. Most recently, we have had to cancel two projects, with investments totaling over $1M, to expand to the elementary school in west St. George and the new Moncton high school. Natural gas systems in these schools would have lowered their energy costs and improved their environmental footprint. The expansions would have also made natural gas available to more homes and businesses in the area.
While natural gas will still remain the lowest cost energy solution in the province, the removal of incentives and limited expansion will have a considerable negative impact on expanding the use of natural gas, contrary to the objectives stated by the Government in passing the amended Act.
This is not the future we saw for natural gas in New Brunswick, however based on the changes the Government has made, this is our new reality.