Feature

Bringing New Brunswick into the Smart Energy Future

The Tesla Powerwall, one of the company's energy storage products. Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

A New Brunswick company wants to help bring the province into the smart energy future.

Saint John-based NexGen is a one-stop shop for all things smart energy for homeowners and builders, offering consultation, sales and maintenance on cutting-edge products. 

“We’re part of a larger group of people brought together to represent this new era that we’re living through right now. Everything that has to do with smart energy and moving into the Internet of Things, everybody and everything has an address. Everything has an internet base,” says Mark McAloon, NexGen’s president and CEO. “The mission of our company is to seek out the new technologies that are in other communities, other provinces, other countries and simply bring them back to our community.”

Mark McAloon, NexGen president and CEO. Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

NexGen offers a slew different products including solar panels, heaters, real-time energy feeds, heat pumps, electric car chargers, insulations, power walls, even smart doorbells and light switches. Brands they carry include the likes of Google, Tesla and more. Not limited to any one supplier or type of product, NexGen works with each customer to find the solutions right for them.

“We’re all geeks. We spend a lot of time exploring what kind of technologies are coming. We do a lot of experimenting,” McAloon says. “We don’t sell anything until we try it ourselves and make sure that it’s something we want to be able to offer our community. That’s part of the fun in what we do, doing that exploring, that trial and error.”

McAloon says New Brunswick is behind other provinces when it comes to adapting to more sustainable energy solutions, but that’s starting to change.

“That’s exciting because I think there’s never been a time where we’ve heard so much interest in energy and energy consumption, especially with the experiences we had in the province with the loss of power and the discussion around increasing power rates,” he says. “I’ve never met a single person ever who said ‘wow, I love getting a power bill’ and ‘I love paying my power bill this month.’”

A display of products NextGen offers, including a heat pump, electric car charger and the Tesla Powerwall.
Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

“People are realizing the benefits of becoming smarter with their use of energy, so I think it’s a natural evolution.”

Yet, it’s a long road until every New Brunswicker adapts smart energy solutions into their homes. “Smart energy” is still a buzzword to many. NexGen is trying to change this by bringing the latest technologies right to the community.

“The interest we’re getting in New Brunswick, even in our own communities, everyone is very curious. But we are also very human and people are afraid to try new technologies until they see their neighbours try them,” McAloon says. “But the way we see it is all of our neighbouring communities as far as neighbouring provinces and neighbouring countries, they’re strides ahead of us in the smarter technologies. There’s no magic formula, we’re simply just exploring those and bringing them back to our own communities.”

Education is another component NexGen makes a part of their business. They say many people still need to learn how switching to more sustainable energy can not only help the planet but also their wallet.

“It’s a lot to do with awareness, so a large part of what we have to do is bring those educational factors or pieces to anything that we sell and we’re continuously looking to partner with people that offer the same vision,” says McAloon.

NexGen’s Solar Panel display at the 2017 Atlantic National Home Show.
Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

NexGen partners with organizations like Fredericton-based Gaia Project, which facilitates youth-led projects in environmental sustainability in schools throughout New Brunswick. They also recently partnered with MCL Construction to help build the first official net-zero home in New Brunswick. Located in the Kennebecasis Valley, it’s expected to be unveiled by May.

“I say ‘official’ because it’s the first one to receive federal approval because it has met all the criteria. They are all doing this in partnership with the Canadian Homebuilders Association, who have developed their own kind of program and definition as a ‘net-zero- house,” McAloon says.

The home will feature 50 roof solar panels as well as other products such as the Tesla Powerwall.

“It’s meant to be a home that can generate as much power as it’s going to consume in a year’s span … but I think we’re quickly going to move past that type of design and that concept as we get people wanting to develop or generate more energy than they consume.”

Only being in business for just over a year, most of NexGen’s customer base is in the Greater Saint John region, with plans this year to expand more into the St. Stephen and Sussex areas. By 2020, McAloon says they plan to have their own net-zero facility to house offices for themselves and to rent, along with a small manufacturing site to make some of their own products.

“We want to continue that trend to show other people, set those examples to take that leadership role, to say ‘hey we can do this here too. We don’t need to be this far behind other provinces or communities.’ There’s absolutely a need for that,” he says.

“The way we structured the company is to allow other community leaders to share that vision and to invest into NexGen or to own shares of the business as well as go through our funding rounds. It’s all geared towards involving community and employees as well … it’s a business built to empower smart energy and people.”