Since its founding in 2005, the Atlantica Centre for Energy has served as a proactive voice for Atlantic Canada’s vibrant energy sector, serving as a bridge between the industry, its stakeholders, and the community.
Centre President Michelle Robichaud says Atlantica’s mandate has three prongs — fostering partnerships, facilitating dialogue, and driving energy literacy. “All three mandates keep us extremely busy, which makes it an exciting time to be in the energy sector,” she says. “The literacy piece has just been given a big boost with the launch of the Fuel 4 the Future (F4F) project, which will help connect the region’s future workforce with the clean fuels sector.”
Fuel 4 the Future
Announced on November 2, Fuel 4 the Future is an energy literacy initiative aimed at raising awareness of opportunities in the clean fuels industry for post-secondary students and First Nation youth in the four Atlantic Canadian provinces.
“We are so excited to have been selected as part of Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Fuels Awareness program,” notes Robichaud. “This is a great opportunity for young people to better understand what their options will be if they consider a career in energy.”
She says a known issue amongst Atlantica members is the need to develop more skilled talent in the region. “It’s important for the next generation to recognize that our traditional sectors like oil and gas and fossil fuels are among those making the greatest strides in our clean energy future. They’re making major investments in clean fuel to help decarbonize our economy. F4F will help young people understand the role that our traditional sectors are playing with regards to a cleaner energy future.”
F4F includes the launch of an interactive learning website that explores three career paths: clean hydrogen; biofuels; and renewable natural gas. The project connects with students via in-class activities and presentations, virtual events, surveys, job fairs, and more.
Increased Engagement is Needed
Robichaud feels the biggest challenge faced by the industry right now is winning enough hearts and minds to keep moving the needle. “I think a notable challenge is convincing the public that investing in our energy future will come at a cost but is extremely important. To decarbonize and become truly sustainable, our energy industry is going to require the support of not only policymakers but the public. Whether it’s through energy conservation, being more cognizant of peak usage times, supporting green energy projects in their region, or ensuring they’re adopting technology like heat pumps, all residents have a role to play. Initiatives like F4F are one part, but we need to keep building that energy literacy across all demographics.”
New Brunswick’s Vital Role
Robichaud says New Brunswick remains well-positioned to lead the transition to a cleaner energy future. “We’re fortunate in New Brunswick to have one of the most highly diversified energy sectors in the country. Our electrical grid has everything from hydro to nuclear to wind to biofuels to traditional fossil fuels. We also have access to natural gas through some of the most modern pipelines in Canada. Our current energy mix will certainly allow us to make the transition to a cleaner energy future.”
She also points to New Brunswick’s nuclear expertise as a reason to be excited about the future of clean energy. “Given the extensive nuclear energy knowledge in New Brunswick, there is a real opportunity for this province to be a world leader in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), a technology which will help dramatically decarbonize our grid and our industry. The energy sector is a significant contributor to our entire region, and New Brunswick is already a huge energy exporter. It can only grow from here, and SMR development will certainly be an exciting piece to watch as we move into 2024.”
ONB recognizes the importance of a strong supply chain for this burgeoning technology, and Robichaud says her organization recognizes the good work being done to support reactor development. “ONB has been a lead organization as it relates to developing those supply chains. We are fortunate to partner with groups like ONB and their counterparts in other provinces who have connections with the business community and are working to not only develop supply chains, but build the workforce needed to maintain it all, and bring even more industry players to the region through investment attraction efforts.”
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