September 6, 2023 / By Affaires Courantes

Electricity Canada and U.S. Affairs

Many people don’t realize that there are over 31 transmission lines that connect U.S. and Canada, providing electricity to millions of Americans and Canadians. Working together, U.S. - Canada electricity trade and integration delivers a more resilient, clean and affordable system for everyone. Current Affairs sits down with Robin Yee, Manager of U.S. relations to connect the dots—or the transmission lines, as the case may be.

Hi Robin. Over 70 TWh of electricity flows across the U.S. Canada border, which represents a trade relationship of over $3 billion. What are the biggest concerns with US-Canada relations?

The biggest concern with Canada – U.S. relations is that both countries have set really ambitious climate goals and are going through huge energy resource mix transitions.

We've come from this phase where electricity companies had more ability and longer timelines to plan and build and construct as needed, and now we're having to transition and do a lot of changes much more rapidly.

Making sure that the grid remains reliable while we're going through this is a completely different challenge. We are trying to bring together completely new and innovative technologies to work together in ways that we haven't done at this scale and, we're trying to do that while also working towards non-emitting goals. Trying to do those both in parallel is intertwined and complex -that is really the key challenge.

This summer we've been facing real challenges with extreme weather. How have both countries worked together to make the grid more resilient?

Both countries have a long history of working together to keep the grid reliable, and the cross-border relationship is a big part of that. This plays out in different ways.

There's a long history of mutual aid in the case of outages. Crews will cross the border to go and assist neighbors with bringing the lights back on. Another part of it that's built into the system, is simply just having the Internet interconnections between the different regions, it builds resilience. For example, if there is a cold snap in one area or a storm, you have the ability to import energy from another region. This can help meet increased demands or provide alternate supplies rather than having to overbuild in one area. So that's a really interesting compliment between Canada and the United States, that's part of the reason why energy often will flow North and South. It's because we have different things to offer each other and that can be used to strengthen both countries.

There are also forums and groups and councils that work together to make sure that we are looking ahead and preparing for serious incidents or responding together as an industry.

How does our net zero future come into play with U.S. relations?

Well, both countries right now are working towards net zero futures or non-emitting goals and making sure we work together is important. There's new policy being introduced in the States at the federal level and at the State level. We're also seeing policy come up in Canada and regulations related to that and electricity is going to play a huge role, not only for reducing emissions as an industry, but also for supporting other industries and sectors that will need to ship the energy sources they rely on.

Tell us about the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and Electricity Canada’s work with the organization?

NERC or the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is the regulator for reliability across North America and the integrated electric grid. It is a really impressive and complex organization that develops reliability standards. This needs to be done at a very technical level and it’s informed by industry experience, but it also has to be regulated and enforced in appropriate ways.

Electricity Canada works to support a strong relationship with NERC for our Canadian members and entities, making sure that Canadian perspectives are represented. There has been recent work on, weather issues or issues that are influenced by Canadian geography.

Making sure that there is good representation and co-operation going on in that, we're providing input into the development and direction of policy is important for NERC.

NERC holds one of its Board meetings per year in Canada and the most recent was in Ottawa. There was about 100 people from NERC and across industry and government representation who participate, to talk about what the big challenges are in electricity reliability and how we're working to solve them. It's not easy to find answers, but NERC does a lot of assessments or studies which can be really which can be resources for navigating the transition.

What file are you most looking forward to tackling in your work?

I think really what's most interesting is making sure that the right people are talking to each other because electricity so integrated, it affects so many different aspects of society. You have government, you have policymakers and regulators, you have industry, and you have different needs from the users who are now starting to become part of that. As people generate their own electricity, we’re trying to support the conversations between all these different groups, and I think that’s a really exciting and interesting challenge.

Why is the North American electricity relationship so important?

The electricity relationship is so important because it's the foundation of how we have built our society essentially across North America. And it really does depend on this cooperation across regions, which really leads to a strengthening and resilience and reliability for people who depend on electricity. When electricity was just coming more into society it was very regional and localized. Cooperation between different regions meant that instead of overbuilding in one area, you could work with your neighbor to balance things out and both of you could have the benefits of that. That has continued to be the case and it's by working together that we've been able to have the wonderful benefits of electricity in our society.

For more information, please contact Robin Yee (