Editorial

As has been observed before in Energy Regulation Quarterly,1 developments resulting from technological innovation in energy production and distribution raise important policy/regulatory issues. While in today’s environment these issues usually do not attract the same level of public attention (or interest) as controversy surrounding infrastructure development and climate change, they nevertheless present significant challenges for energy policymakers and regulators.

Distributed energy resources are one such innovation. In their article “Distributed Energy Resource Development in Ontario: A Socio-Technical Transition in Progress?”, Mark Winfield and Amanda Gelfant observe that, while distributed energy resources offer the potential to strengthen the sustainability of energy systems, their emergence also presents challenges for policy makers, regulators and actors in the electricity system. Ontario offers an important case study for exploring the tensions around their development.

“Innovation” (although not of the technological variety) is also central to the article by Michael Cleland and Tonja Leach titled “Much of Canada’s Energy and Climate Challenge is Local — and so are Many of the Solutions.” The authors argue that there needs to be a shift in the conversation to “Smart Energy Communities”, with implications for the energy regulatory system. For example, while technological change is important, “what is missing from the technological conversation is a whole field of innovation concerned with the institutions that will oversee change and deployment of new technologies.”

The highly controversial overhaul of the federal assessment process for reviewing energy and other development projects under federal jurisdiction, known as Bill C-69, is now law. Among other changes, the National Energy Board has been replaced by the Canada Energy Regulator, which, in only the first few weeks of its existence, was presented with a significant, and unprecedented, application to halt an open season process that had been initiated by Enbridge with a view to converting 90 per cent of the capacity of its mainline from common carrier to contract carriage. The changes implemented by the proclamation of Bill C-69 (which encompass more than the assessment process for infrastructure projects as such) are reviewed in “Bill C-69: Introducing the Canadian Energy Regulator and the Impact Assessment Agency”, by Evan W. Dixon, Brittney N. LaBranche, Brendan K. Downey and Mike B. Chernos.

As announced in the last issue, ERQ is presenting a series of interviews with the chairs of Canada’s public utility tribunals. The second written interview in the series, with Jocelin Dumas, Chair of the Quebec Régie de l’énergie, is presented in this issue of ERQ. Readers are reminded that other non-written interviews in the series are posted periodically as podcasts on the ERQ website.2

Ahmad Faruqui reviews The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, by Gretchen Bakke. Bakke teaches cultural anthropology at McGill and brings a new perspective to an important subject that has been widely discussed in scholarly and trade journals. Faruqui reports that, not surprisingly, her book has garnered the favourable attention of The Wall Street Journal and the National Post and that the author has appeared on NPR. However, he concludes that “a book which had begun on a promising note, takes its reader on a journey that abounds in sweeping generalizations, unsupported statements, conjecture and speculation.”

One of our Managing Editors, Rowland Harrison, reviews BREAKDOWN: The Pipeline Debate and the Threat to Canada’s Future, by Dennis McConaghy. BREAKDOWN is the sequel to McConaghy’s 2017 DYSFUNCTION: Canada after Keystone XL. It details events that occurred primarily within Canada from late 2015 to the end of 2018, a period of intense regulatory, political, legal and other developments related to proposals to expand export market access for Canada’s oil and natural gas resources.


  1. See, for example, the editorial in Volume 6, Issue 3 and Adonis Yatchew’s article in the same issue on the ERQ website, “Should Ratepayers Fund Innovation?”, online: <http://www.energyregulationquarterly.ca/articles/should-ratepayers-fund-innovation#sthash.AjYeKINf.dpbs>.
  2. ERQ website, “Chairs Interviews’ Series”, online: <http://www.energyregulationquarterly.ca/chairs-interviews-series#sthash.2yhbkRcs.dpbs>.

 

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