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The time is ripe for a common Eastern Canadian Energy Strategy

Published in the Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald and La Presse, December 4, 2014

. Maybe you missed it, but not Jim Prentice, the new Premier of Alberta. His rush to meet with Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard shows the transforming nature of the recent joint announcement by Ontario’s and Québec’s Premiers of a series of agreements and common positions on energy and climate change issues. The premiers’ actions could signal a new era of cooperation between provinces in the design of energy policies that would address not only energy security but also energy-related environment and climate change questions as energy production and consumption is responsible for 80% of human-related GHG emissions in Canada. This November agreement represents a first step in developing a much needed province-led “Canadian Energy Strategy”, that was supported by all Premiers at their annual meeting. Indeed, as demonstrated by the experiences of the Pacific Northwest and Scandinavia, such a common energy and climate change strategy can deliver significant benefits to all participants when the right balance is found. This balance is difficult to establish when we consider the full diversity and geographic distribution of Canada’s energy resources. However, Ontario and Quebec would do well to expand their discussions with provinces that share similar energy systems profiles, particularly in Eastern Canada. Such an approach would provide opportunities to address a number of shared issues including: meaningfully addressing climate change, developing their significant but largely undervalued resources and capacity in energy efficiency as well as renewable and low-impact energy, and addressing the challenges regarding energy transportation, particularly the movement of fossil fuels to and through the region. Following the direction set in the November Ontario-Quebec Agreement, there are a number of priorities that could strengthen the links between Eastern Canadian provinces to the benefits of all. In the short term, the provinces should work to (i) expand common policies and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; (ii) establish a strategic plan regarding the further strengthening of system interconnections and long-term electricity supply, including the use the large existing hydroelectric storage capacity for developing renewable energy across the region; and (iii) develop a common position/approach to evaluate the risks, costs, environmental impacts and benefits associated with the interprovincial transportation of energy, including but not limited to, fossil fuels. In the longer term, these provinces should also work to (i) support energy efficiency with more stringent common standards and codes, and effective use of price signals; (ii) strengthen the focus on sustainable transportation infrastructure and modes, including the role of the electrification of transportation; and (iii) develop and implement a common regulatory framework for evaluating the impacts and benefits of non-conventional hydrocarbon exploration and development. Together, these actions could result in significant short- and long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for all of the participating provinces. They would better leverage the region’s important renewable energy resources and thereby accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, facilitate exchanges between the different markets, and encourage economic efficiency. A common energy strategy for Eastern Canada would not replace the current and emerging energy and climate change strategies and policies developed by individual provinces. Rather, just as in the Pacific Northwest and in Scandinavia, they would provide an additional dimension that could help better leverage the provincial actions through regional cooperation, without restraining the scope of action of any provincial government’s individual jurisdiction. We believe that the time is ripe for a real transformation of energy policy in Canada. Starting with an Eastern Canadian strategy appears to us the best and fastest way to prepare for a future that benefits all of Canada. To find the full text of the white paper, visit : Prepared and supported by Miguel Anjos (Institut de l’énergie Trottier, Polytechnique Montréal) François Bouffard (McGill University and GERAD) Claudio A. Cañizares (University of Waterloo) Evariste Feurtey (Université du Québec à Rimouski) Jack Gibbons (Ontario Clean Air Alliance) L.D. Danny Harvey (University of Toronto) Roger Lanoue (Montréal) Wade Locke (Memorial University) Guy Marleau (Polytechnique Montréal) James Meadowcroft (Carleton University) Normand Mousseau (Université de Montréal) Pierre-Olivier Pineau (Chair in Energy Sector Management, HEC Montréal) Catherine Potvin (McGill University) Ian H. Rowlands (Waterloo University) Hugo Tremblay (Université de Montréal) Lorne Trottier (Trottier Family Foundation) Mark S. Winfield (York University) Johanne Whitmore  (HEC Montréal) Emmanuel Yiridoe (Dalhousie University)