1. Canada’s electricity sector Reform
Canada’s electricity sector faces a bright and promising future. For nearly a century,
the industry has consistently delivered safe and reliable electricity to Canadians from coast
to coast to coast. Going forward, it has the potential to contribute towards meeting
Canada’s global environmental commitments, while also contributing to the recovery and
long term prosperity of our economy Electricity is the lifeblood of our modern world.
Indeed, it is hard to find a single aspect of life that has not been transformed by electric
power. Many advances in medicine, transportation, manufacturing, communications, and
information technology were attainable because of electricity. In societies around the
globe, electrification is a fundamental catalyst for economic growth and the means to
improve living conditions.
• The electricity sector in Canada has played a significant role in the economic and
political life of the country since the late 19th century.
• The sector is organized along provincial and territorial lines.
• In a majority of provinces, large government-owned integrated public utilities play a
• Canada is the world's second-largest producer of hydroelectricity, which accounted
for 63% of all electric generation in 2011.
• Ontario and Alberta have created electricity markets in the last decade in order to
increase investment and competition in this sector of the economy.
Electricity is viewed by many as a “public good”, meaning that every person should be able to
consume electricity without reducing its availability to others.
Section 92A(1)(c) of the Constitution Act, 1867 places “development, conservation and
management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of
electrical energy” under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Initially, crown-owned
utilities were largely self-regulating However, in order to meet this potential, Canada’s
electricity sector must undergo a transformation. The transformation of Canada’s electricity
sector and the realization of its social, environmental and economic objectives go beyond the
plans and actions of industry. Governments, regulators, environmental and aboriginal
2. stakeholders, and the broader public must be involved in the conversation if we are to be
successful in transforming Canada’s electricity system.
The electricity system in Canada today is world-class; Canadians enjoy some of the most
affordable, reliable and cleanest electricity in the world. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of
recent capital investment in many jurisdictions. After a period of overbuild during the 1970s
and 1980s, the industry was able to meet growing electricity demand without any significant
generating capacity or transmission line additions. In the last two decades, few jurisdictions
have made significant investments, and there has been little expansion or development of the
electricity system overall. Today, major investments are overdue to replace and renew aging
assets and allow for the continued efficient, reliable and economic operation of the existing ".
Add in the need for new investment to meet future demand, improve system efficiency,
enhance customer interfacing systems and technologies, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and
other air emissions, address potential constraints on water resources, and improve overall
environmental performance, and the investment requirements become considerable – the
International Energy Agency (IEA) projects required investment in Canada’s electric sector by
2030 to be on the order of $240 billion (CAN).
Canada’s objective of improving environmental performance and reducing GHG and other air
emissions has led to the increasingly frequent entanglement of federal energy and
environmental policy. In the past, energy policy was driven primarily by population and
economic growth. Today, climate change, resources constraints, sustainability objectives, and
energy efficiency and conservation are equally important drivers of the policies shaping
Canada’s energy future.
In fact, the energy sector broadly, and to an extent the electricity industry in particular, have
become catalysts for ensuring Canada’s future prosperity, for meeting our global environmental
commitments and sustainability objectives, and for enabling a healthy society in the years to
come. The expectations for the electricity sector to deliver on these objectives are high, and the
industry holds a vast amount of potential. However, in order to enable the supply of affordable,
sustainable and reliable electricity, investment in Canada’s electricity infrastructure must be
planned and capital must be deployed in an efficient and strategic manner. Moreover,
important tradeoffs between these objectives must be identified, balanced and managed.
Investments to enable a more sustainable electricity system will not occur without a cost to
electricity consumers, and must be balanced against impacts on electric reliability. The ability to
deploy capital efficiently requires the involvement of many interested parties, including
governments, regulators, environmental and aboriginal stakeholders, and local communities,
and depends on clear public policy. Industry must respond to the demand for low-emitting and
sustainable technologies for electricity generation and a more efficient and responsive bulk
power system; governments and regulators must establish policies and conditions that will
enable the investment and technological development needed to make the transformation
possible; and the public must recognize that such a transformation will not come without a cost
and subsequent impacts on rates. This discussion paper demonstrates the potential of the
3. electricity sector to contribute to the achievement of Canada’s economic, environmental, and
The Regulatory Pillars of Canada’s Electricity System
As mentioned earlier, despite growth, research and development investment, and technological
advancement, the model for producing and delivering electricity has remained largely
unchanged for over 100 years. This is in large part because it continues to deliver what end-
users value in an electricity system: affordability and reliability. These are the system’s pillars.
• In Canada's federal system of government, jurisdiction over energy is divided between
the federal and provincial and territorial governments.
• Provincial governments have jurisdiction over the exploration, development,
conservation, and management of non-renewable resources, as well as the generation
and production of electricity.
4. • Federal jurisdiction in energy is primarily concerned with regulation of inter-provincial
and international trade and commerce, and the management of non-renewable
resources on federal lands.
Provincial regulation of oil and natural gas activities, pipelines, and distribution systems is
administered by provincial utility boards. The producing provinces impose royalties and taxes
on oil and natural gas production; provide drilling incentives; and grant permits and licenses to
construct and operate facilities. The consuming provinces regulate distribution systems and
oversee the retail price of natural gas to consumers. The key regulations with respect to
the wholesale and retail electricity competition are at the provincial level. To date, two
provinces (Alberta and Ontario) have initiated retail competition. In Alberta, the electricity
sector is largely privatized; in Ontario the process is ongoing. In other provinces electricity is
mostly generated and distributed by provincially-owned utilities.
The National Energy Board (NEB) is an independent federal regulatory agency that regulates the
Canadian energy industry. The NEB was created in 1959 and reports through the Minister of
Natural Resources to the Parliament of Canada. Its primary responsibilities include:
1. Inter-provincial and international oil and gas pipelines and power lines,
2. Export and import of natural gas under long-term licenses and short-term orders,
3. Oil exports under long-term licenses and short-term orders (no applications for long-
term exports have been filed in recent years), and
4. Frontier lands and offshore areas not covered by provincial/federal management
5. In 1985, the federal government and the provincial governments in Alberta, British
Columbia and Saskatchewan agreed to deregulate the prices of crude oil and natural
gas. Offshore oil Atlantic Canada is administered under joint federal and provincial
responsibility in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
5. International power trading carried out by Canadian provinces with USA
Province Canada to USA (GW-Hr) USA to Canada (GW-Hr)
Alberta 41 991
British Columbia 9,955 9,999
Manitoba 9,344 139
New Brunswick 1056 585
Nova Scotia 0 146
Ontario 11,066 1,764
Quebec 19,879 443
Saskatchewan 991 321
Total 51,341 14,387
6. Cross-Canada Cross-Border
• As the provincial electricity systems matured, interties to neighboring provinces as well
as to bordering US States allowed for increased optimization of generation resource
• Increasing the size of the network reduced electricity prices by allowing the
development of larger, more efficient plants to serve the larger loads.
• The economics behind today’s electricity system dictate that in most jurisdictions,
customers are afforded lower costs by transmitting electricity from the most efficient
generating sources to the load centres, sometimes over thousands of kilometers.
• Over the years, this complex web of generation, transmission and distribution assets has
grown to meet Canada’s appetite for electricity and has served its purpose very well: to
provide affordable, reliable power to all Canadians.
• Net Installed capacity: 130,543 MW
• Hydro Power has the dominant share approx 57%
Hydro Wind Tidal Solar Thermal
6,781 54 0 0 584
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
0 152 0 0 117
374 218 20 0 2,006
947 249 0 0 2,849
38,438 658 0 0 3,018
8,406 1,457 0 108 25,516
5,054 104 0 0 501
856 171 0 0 3,159
883 806 0 0 11,107
13,205 104 0 0 2,291
78 1 0 0 33
NORTH WEST TERRITORIES
56 0 0 0 127
NUNAVUT 0 0 0 0 54
Transmission & Distribution
• The Canadian transmission networks extend over 160,000 km.
• The Canadian transmission networks are largely integrated to the continental power grid.
• Transmission and Distribution tariffs in Canada are split in 4 groups :
1. Residential : Monthly usage: 1000 kWh
2. Small Power : Power demand: 40 kW; Consumption 10,000 kWh, load factor:
3. Medium Power : Power demand: 1,000 kW; Consumption: 400,000 kWh, load
factor: 56 %
4. Large Power: Power demand: 50,000 kW; Consumption: 30,600,000 kWh, load
• Jurisdictions that have introduced private sector reforms, the results have been mixed and the
process has been slow.
• Alberta’s electricity market is the most evolved, and it has stimulated the most private sector
• Ontario sought to introduce both wholesale and retail competition in 2002.
• High prices and other circumstances, however, conspired to bring a quick end to this new
• Ontario has since adopted a “hybrid market.”
• Major step was Ontario power authority’s release of Supply Mix Advice Report and the
provincial government’s ensuing Supply Mix Directive.
10. Quasi-judicial bodies regulate provincial utilities:
British Columbia: Public utilities commission.
Alberta: Alberta utilities commission
Saskatchewan: Province of Saskatchewan
Manitoba: Province of Manitoba n Public utilities board
Ontario: Ontario energy board
Québec: Régie de l’énergie
New Brunswick: Provincial Government
Nova Scotia: Utility review board
Prince Edward Island: Regulatory and appeals comm of PEI
Newfoundland and Labrador: Commission of Public utilities
Yukon: Yukon utilities board
Northwest Territories: Public utilities board
Nunavut: Government of Nunavut
Canada’s electricity system is on the verge of an important transformation. While
significant investment is required and will not come without costs, the benefits to investing in
reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity far outweigh the risks. Investment in electricity
infrastructure will ensure a stable supply of electricity to support Canada’s economic and
demographic growth. Growing our electricity supply responsibly, and investing in lower-
emitting electricity technologies, will mean a reduction in the sector’s environmental footprint
as well as economic and social benefits to our communities.