“We need to be willing to constantly learn from what others are doing”

New report funded by Electricity Canada looks at case studies from three international jurisdictions to help determine Canada’s way forward with net zero.

If we want to achieve net zero, policy makers will need to abandon one-size-fits-all thinking and become more adaptable and transparent, states a new report released by the University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program that Electricity Canada funded alongside the Canadian Gas Association and Natural Resources Canada. This is an update to a report delivered in 2022 as part of Electricity Canada’s annual regulatory workshop.

“Net Zero: An international review of electricity and natural gas delivery system policy and regulation for Canadian energy decision makers” was released earlier in July. It uses case studies of energy policy and regulation in three jurisdictions – New York State, Great Britain and Western Australia—to determine what Canada’s energy policymakers, regulators and providers might do as they build their own way forward toward net zero.

“This is an important report”, notes Alex Kent, Electricity Canada’s director, distribution and regulatory affairs. “A key finding is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to achieving net zero. Every place has its own unique circumstances and challenges, and each jurisdiction needs to chart its own course. However, we need to be willing to constantly learn from what others are doing along the way.”

The report’s main recommendation is that Canada establish a mechanism bringing together policymakers, regulators, industry and Indigenous representatives to ensure ongoing learning, collaboration and action on energy delivery system regulatory reform.

In addition, the report recommends a variety of principles to foster effective progress on net zero:

  • Ensuring approaches deliver emissions reductions alongside the energy fundamentals of reliability, affordability, resilience and safety
  • Developing well-articulated and coordinated high-level policy
  • Understanding that energy systems are complex and adaptive
  • Exposing consumers and citizens to the realities of energy transformation and their costs, risks, opportunities and benefits
  • Placing project approvals in the hands of independent expert regulatory bodies
  • Focusing on results
  • Creating open, inclusive and transparent policy, planning and approval processes that engage communities and citizens from beginning to end.

With these recommendations, this report offers a way forward for regulators and for government. “We need to adopt the view that our systems and processes need to change to enable net zero,” says Kent, “Not the other way around.”

The report is available on the University of Ottawa website