While the Atlantic provinces remain national leaders in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the path forward to carbon neutrality will require an unprecedented effort from all of us.
How our region produces and uses energy will need to rapidly evolve and incorporate transformative new energy technologies, some of which are being developed right here in this region.
The entire country is facing massive challenges on who pays for this transition, including the costs associated with stranded legacy energy assets such as coal plants.
Considering the cumulative impact of these challenges, Atlantic Canada requires a commitment to much greater policy and regulatory alignment.
In extensive consultations with leaders in the energy sector in our region, it is clear that outdated government policies and regulations loom as significant obstacles to progress.
As these leaders seek to make changes to their own operations and pursue innovative paths toward a clean energy future, they find themselves confronted by policies and regulations designed for a different era.
In moving forward, Atlantic Canada needs an agile regulatory environment – one that is progressive, responsive and modernized.
While we face unprecedented challenges, we also know that change presents opportunity. The Atlantica Centre for Energy’s discussion paper on energy regulatory reform, released in September, presents opportunities for reform that enable, rather than impede, the transition to a clean energy future.
We are encouraged to see examples of regulatory modernization and innovation emerge in our region. This includes efforts by the Government of New Brunswick, which introduced amendments to the Electricity Act that allow NB Power to file applications for electricity rates for periods of up to three years instead of annually; to file three-year strategic, financial and investment plans; and to establish a process for considering both economic and societal costs as part of future rate applications.
These changes will add efficiencies to the regulatory review process while incorporating much broader social, environmental and economic considerations as part of future NB Power investment decisions. We encourage the other provinces to follow suit and work collaboratively to develop a common set of rules, regulations and regulatory bodies.
We applaud the Smart Grid Nova Scotia project, a partnership between Nova Scotia Power and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. The project is designed to explore new ways to integrate emerging technologies into the electricity grid, including how the costs and benefits associated with these technologies will be shared between the utility and their customers.
We are encouraged by the Government of Prince Edward Island, which is leading the country in facilitating the introduction and regulation of low-pressure, high-efficiency biomass boilers in support of central heating and district energy applications.
Residential, commercial and institutional buildings are currently heated using renewable biomass resources in both urban and rural communities across the Island, with a total energy output of more than 45 megawatts.
We need to build on these regional success stories.
The Atlantic Hydrogen Alliance is tracking hydrogen projects in the region that will help to reduce emissions across the region from transportation fuels, natural gas use and electricity generation: a true pan-energy approach.
The proponents need clear and unambiguous guidelines from each province to proceed. Energy producers have a strong interest in lowering emissions – something the public has called on them to do. All levels of government must now work together to enable these projects to proceed.
We need to leverage the collective energy strengths and capabilities of all four Atlantic provinces. We need a unified Atlantic energy voice in Ottawa.
The Atlantica Centre for Energy is advocating for a cohesive regional effort and clean energy plan, bolstered by a mandate from the Council of Atlantic Premiers. The initiative, drawn from the region’s leading public- and private-sector energy experts, would pursue transformative clean energy innovations that are enabled by modern energy policies and regulations that are aligned, clear and efficient.
They should create regional programs that support citizens and businesses through the pending energy transformation and communicate Atlantic Canada’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Centre fully supports the Council of Atlantic Premiers’ communiqué from September, which declared: “Atlantic Canadians deserve access to reliable, sustainable and affordable electricity that reduces greenhouse gas emission, creates jobs and supports continued growth of the region’s economy. Atlantic Canada has the resources to be a powerhouse in the development and transmission of non-emitting energy….”
Indeed, we do. Our region’s energy future is bright if we all work together.
Stephen MacMackin is Chair of the Atlantica Centre for Energy. The Centre provides a unique meeting ground for industry, government, the education and research sectors, and the community at large to foster partnerships and proactively engage in energy-related issues. The Centre’s membership represents the largest employers, energy producers, distributors, and consumers in the region. More information is available at www.atlanticaenergy.org.