OTTAWA – Energy Minister Jack Keir said New Brunswick’s dream of becoming the region’s energy hub is coming closer to fruition thanks the province’s varied energy portfolio.

He said the province is in a prime spot to expand its interests in a number of energy fields, from nuclear to renewable energies like wind tidal power. New Brunswick is naturally positioned to take advantage of emerging technologies like wood byproducts and value-added industries for export.

The province is also looking to beef up its stakes in wind and tidal power thanks to the province’s geographic advantage. The key is to diversify, maintains Keir. He said there is no “silver bullet” to energy greatness. Rather, it is having multiple interests that makes the province an attractive centre for energy exports.

“Becoming an energy hub is getting as much diverse generation as possible and New Brunswick is absolutely ideally situated with diverse generation,” he said. “A coal plant, nuclear interests, renewables — they all fit together very nicely.”

Atomic Energy of Canada and Team Candu New Brunswick are carrying out a $2.5- million feasibility study to determine the market demand for the world’s first Advanced Candu Reactor-1000, the transmission options into the New England and New York markets, the project delivery and operation model and the project’s timeline. AECL officials already forecast a shortfall of roughly 100 to 500 megawatts of power in the Maritime region in a decade. In New England, the gap is between 4,300 and 6,400 megawatts by 2015-18 and as high as 8,000 megawatts by 2020-25.

The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station already produces excess electricity. A potential second reactor is being considered to also provide electricity for export.

NB Power has secured purchase agreements to build wind farms in the southern parts of the province that will produce nearly 100 megawatts of electricity. Earlier this year, the utility released a request for proposals to buy an additional 300 megawatt of wind power by November 2010.

Keir said what makes the province’s energy profile so desirable to others is its export possibilities. Fresh from a meeting with federal Energy Minister Gary Lunn, Keir said the country is taking a keen interest in what N.B. is offering. He said New Brunswick’s prospects are so good, the need for a federal funding partnership wasn’t raised at their meeting.

“What’s unique is that none of this is necessarily for own demand,” he said. “It’s all for the export market and it’s not like we’re under pressure to get something built for our own. This is allowing us to take out time, do it right and make sure we’re making all the right decisions.”

Tim Curry, president of the Atlantic Centre for Energy, said New Brunswick’s energy interests have already made an impact on the regional economy — a “significant” move forward.

Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said while energy options are plentiful, he recommends the province treads lightly.

“We shouldn’t be looking to say New Brunswick is going to be the next California, it just doesn’t happen that way,” he said. “Simply put, there are limits on how much small provinces can do.

“The way New Brunswick becomes a hub is to not put up too many barriers and to take care of local interests. The province needs to focus on infrastructure that allows you to move electricity across borders — that’s the kind of infrastructure that a province should be setting up.”