COMMENTARY: Enabling a cleaner energy future empowered by Atlantic innovation
In the face of the unmistakable consequences of climate change, society expects action on a clean energy future.
With all the ingenuity and innovation we have within Atlantic Canada, clearly we can lead the way in forging that future.
Amid the race to develop the next generation of clean energy solutions, though, obstacles crowd the path.
At the Atlantica Centre for Energy, we work with energy organizations, researchers, governments and others to tackle issues and raise awareness. Indeed, this is our mission.
As part of that mission, we recently developed a succinct discussion paper that brings these obstacles into sharper focus so that as a region we can work together to clear the way.
Not kept pace
The paper, entitled Energy Regulatory Reform – An Atlantic Canadian Imperative, outlines how government policies and regulations have clearly not kept pace with the innovation required. In fairness, they were built for a different era.
Today, energy and environmental policies are increasingly driven by the federal government yet must be managed by the provinces. Energy producers, distributors and utilities must then implement them.
Transforming the energy landscape in this country will require a level of commitment, ingenuity and investment unlike we have ever seen before.
Governments at all levels are prioritizing action on climate initiatives. The federal government has mandated carbon reductions and tax schemes on emissions to spur action. Collectively, local, provincial and federal governments are investing billions of dollars in energy projects and programs.
Hamstrung by regulations
Energy companies are making their own deep investments in the drive to slash emissions and develop clean energy solutions.
Whether driven by the public or private sector, these efforts are being hamstrung by energy regulations and policies that are unclear – or even prohibit – action.
In the tightly regulated energy sector, this is no small obstacle – it’s a mountain.
Fortunately, we know governments and the people that vote for them want action in addressing climate change and clean energy alternatives.
Modernizing the regulatory environment, then, must be a priority. As we underscore with the discussion paper, it is an imperative.
Obstacles to progress
Without it, the race to action slows to a crawl. Time and money are wasted. Organizations that otherwise would want to invest in developing projects or solutions in Atlantic Canada will go elsewhere.
In the paper, available on the Atlantica Centre for Energy website, we highlight the obstacles to progress as well as the opportunities.
Among the key recommendations is a cohesive regional effort backed by the premiers of the Atlantic provinces to pursue leading clean energy innovations – innovations enabled by modern energy policies and regulations that are aligned, clear and efficient.
This effort would also serve to publicly champion Atlantic Canada’s leadership in building a clean energy future.
Far more powerful
Our region is challenged by geography, population and energy markets, a reflection of the fragmented provincial approach to energy policy development and regulatory approaches. This is compounded by national energy policies that do not easily reflect the unique issues, challenges and compliance costs in Atlantic Canada.
A regional approach to building a clean energy future would be far more powerful than any we could undertake as individual provinces or communities, and would also ensure that we are well-represented in Ottawa during this time of unprecedented economic and environmental transformation.
We must also remember that Atlantic Canada will be more heavily impacted by decarbonization and the drive to net-zero carbon emissions than any other region. We have the highest reliance on petroleum products and we have the highest level of energy poverty in the country.
Massive impact on region
Escalating energy costs would have a massive impact on our region’s economy and have significant implications for its citizens, both as taxpayers and energy consumers. As a region, we need to engage in an informed discussion on who will ultimately pay for the costs of the transformation, and how the associated benefits will flow to Atlantic Canadians.
In the face of rapidly emerging economic and environmental considerations as well as the introduction and adoption of new energy technologies, we must empower energy regulators in the region to evolve beyond traditional regulatory approaches.
We must not allow this chance to modernize our approach to pass us by. Without it, we will not be successful in seizing the tremendous opportunities we have in the clean energy transformation ahead of us.
This is a time for Atlantic Canada to harness its strengths to be leaders in clean energy innovation. This is a time for us to forge a better future not only for ourselves, but for our nation and our planet.
Stephen MacMackin is Chair of the Atlantica Centre for Energy. The Centre serves as a bridge between organizations operating in the energy sector and the community to help realize opportunities associated with energy resources in Atlantic Canada. For more information, visit www.atlanticaenergy.org.