In Canada, the Neoliberal-Sustainable / Regionalization regime has direct antecedents to the mid 1980s shift from Keynesianism to a neoliberal economic strategy, the national ‘leap of faith’ towards a more market ordered society. Accordingly, it is closely intertwined with a redefinition of boundaries between public sector and private sector, the privatization of state owned firms, deregulation and market-based economic restructuring, as well as fiscal austerity. (Canada. Energy Mines and Resources Canada. 1988; Eden and Molot 1993) Indeed, Donald MacDonald, the original architect of the new national policy, also wrote the initial blueprint for a similar shift in Ontario energy policy.
Under conditions of globalization, neoliberals argue that economic development has little to do with resource endowment.
Thomas Hutton (this volume) argues that services, export oriented manufacturing and high technology industries have replaced resources as motors of development. Still, as such a post-staples analysis looks at Canada as a mature staples state in which export relationships are already set, diversification and population growth has evolved out of historical development, though the international context for resource extraction is changing. Perhaps most important, he argues that core resources may be depleting and staples such as forests, face sustainability deficits.
Equally as important, then, the concept of sustainable development has replaced the Keynesian concept of abundant low cost energy, therefore linking competitive market efficiency and long-term sustainable development. (Brundtland and World Commission on Environment and Development 1987) Given the importance of technology to the contemporary economic thinking, it is important to note that the new paradigm is based on new convergence technologies, such as the use of highly efficient natural gas combined cycle turbine engines to generate electricity, ‘green’ or environmentally benign technologies, as well as new ‘point of use’ generation technologies that change the one sided direction of existing grids. (Flavin and Lenssen 1994)
Lastly, the whole paradigm has arisen as much from international as local or national causes, a dynamic that intertwined paradigm shift with issues of globalization and North American regional integration. The politics of electricity regionalization has then, been marked by contestation within societies, not nationalist conflict between societies. (O'Brien 1995) Indeed, the contemporary electrical energy politics is more closely related to the raw class conflict of “monopolies moment” than the consensual postwar shifts that supported the rise of provincial hydros. Though the paradigm is, at time of writing, not fully established, the concepts of neoliberalism tied to sustainability within an increasingly integrated North American electricity grids present the new contours restructuring the older ‘provincial hydro’ ‘permeable Fordism’ regime.
The paradigm presupposes a complete reworking of existing regimes, including a breaking up of the vertically integrated monopolies into a universal neoliberal epistemic model structured to include private capital in energy production, marketing, services, transmission or distribution. Such initiatives have been hotly contested. (Cohen 2001; Cohen 2002; Dewees 2002; Dunksy and Raphals 1998; Plourde 2002)
For example, Premier Clyde Wells attempted to privatize Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in 1994 as a means of forcing a renegotiation of the Churchill Falls Power Contract, but backed down in face of mobilized opposition. The Ontario government began utility market reform with a White Paper and the 1998 Energy Competition Act that would deintegrate and privatize the highly indebted crisis ridden formally provincial Hydro. The older nuclear facilities were mothballed and after a damming assessment of Ontario Hydro’s nuclear management performance, one of three nuclear complexes was leased to a British Transnational energy firm. In 2002, after several years of open contestation the government came to the brink of privatization just as the new system began to operate. However, two union activists organized an anti-privatization coalition that launched an eleventh hour and eventually successful challenge to the privatization legislation. Faced with prospects or remaking the privatization coalition, the Ontario government withdrew the initiative. The “market system” would be state owned. (Swift and Stewart 2005)
The new regime differs from the neoliberal epistemic model in several senses. (Doern and Gattinger 2003) The idea that electricity is a commodity like all others has not been accepted. Though older provincial hydros have been broken up to conform to the new epistemic model and there has been limited privatization of new supply, only one provincial hydro (Nova Scotia Power) has been privatized. Even in Alberta, Canada’s most “extreme” market experiment, there was no privatization of major generating utilities, and the new market includes both major municipal utilities, as well as IPPs, clearly a mixed system. Both jurisdictions that have gone to full market integration have also corrected the voluntary and initially volatile markets with forms of rebates, contract alternatives or other interventions to correct market failure. Hence, Doern and Gattinger label it a “managed” competition which seeks to establish workable systems, not unfettered markets. (Doern and Gattinger 2003)
The introduction of markets in provincial regimes have also invited the growth of private energy capital, the largest being TransAlta, based in Alberta. TransAlta claims control over 10,000 MW of coal, hydro and alternatives in Canada, the United States and Australia, giving it about twice the capacity of Manitoba Hydro. Fortis, the owners of Newfoundland’s second largest utility, has grown to become a major private utility holding company, owning major regulated distribution utilities in Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial monopoly in Prince Edward Island (Maritime Electric), and through the 2004 purchase of Aquila Canada Networks, major distribution assets in Alberta (former TransAlta distribution system) and British Columbia (former West Kootenay Power). Fortis owns transmission and generation assets in New York, Belize and Grand Cayman. Emera has taken a broader convergence expansion, owning Nova Scotia Power, a small hydro based utility in Maine, Sable Island Gas, regional pipelines and a regional heating fuel company.
One interesting development, from a staples perspective, is the growth of Cameco and Bruce Power. During the mid 1990s the Harris government, effectively privatized Ontario Hydro’s oldest nuclear facilities in the Bruce Peninsula, called the Bruce Power Complex. Four of the installation’s eight reactors had been laid up by Ontario Hydro. The privatization took the form of a long-term lease to British firm, that for other reasons, shortly wanted out of its Canadian operations. The Canadian replacement was Bruce Power, a partnership between the Cameco, the Saskatchewan uranium supplier, Transcanada Pipelines and the two unions working at the Bruce Complex. Privatization has been a success, with substantially greater efficiency and power production from operating units and refurbishment of two older installations. Over time Cameco has increased its ownership. Cameco, therefore, emerges as both a staples supplier and a high technology consumer of its own product.
Most of Canada’s provincial utility sector has been, by definition, confined to provinces–and did not grow in league with the new energy giants–save Hydro Quebec. Hydro Quebec has invested in hydro and natural gas energy assets in the United States, Brazil and Latin America to becoming the world’s third largest hydro producer. The new regime has also weakened Quebec Hydro’s monopsony powers over Churchill Falls Power. As a result the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario are negotiating the construction of an east-west grid to develop and transmit Labrador power to needy markets. Also, Ontario and Manitoba have restarted negotiations about the development of Nelson hydroelectricity for Ontario Markets. Called, the Clean Energy Transfer Initiative, it differs from all previous concepts and negotiations in that it presupposes the establishment of an East-West Grid.
Finally, in many cases it is difficult to use the term “provincial” utility with the clarity of meanings in the postwar regime. Even provincially owned generation companies, like BC Hydro, can become as committed to out of province regional markets as they are to traditional provincial markets. Additionally, the new class of national IPPs are restless in the constraints of yesterday’s regime.
Drivers of Paradigm Change
During the 1980s economists and sociologists argued that the provincial hydro regime had lost its way. For economists such as Jean Thomas Bernard, the inability of publically owned utilities to set prices at marginal costs meant that they regimes could not collect or redistribute rents and eventually argued that that this was normal for public ownership in a democratic state(Bernard and Cairns 1987) while other economists, as well as sociologists and historians, argued that the regime was out of control. (Cairns and Heyes 1993; Hargrove 1994; Mackay 1983; Tritschler 1979; Young 1982)
By the 1990s, Canadian economists openly questioned the older paradigmatic assumptions. For example, Mark Jaccard, argues the case for change by asking whether electricity ought still be considered an important public good, whether it’s production and distribution were natural monopolies and whether utilities were an appropriate agent to carry out public objectives. In concluding the negative for each question, the case for complete change to the neoliberal epistemic model was made. (Jaccard 1995) A related criticism was that public ownership of utilities led to overinvestment and economic waste, potentially the most important critique because it connected utility investment with the sustainable development and environmental policy objectives that emerged during the last decade. Glen P. Jenkins opened up a national debate on public ownership by arguing that the financial and tax advantages given to provincially owned public utilities created distortions and massive economic waste of the capital used to invest in them, a waste that ranged up to 60% of the cost of Canadian electricity! (Jenkins 1985) Though economists criticized method, the extent of the distortion and alternative remedies, and defended the potential of provincially owned utilities as instruments to capture rents from hydro resources, no economist defended the paradigm at it was. (Bernard and Cairns 1987; Jenkins 1987; Spiro 1987)
Federalism and Electricity Grids: Interprovincial and Regional
The provincialization of electrical energy policy regime had direct effect on electricity networks. Under provincial tutelage, networks grew in scale from a fragmented set of local urban regions to become province wide network, allowing then to reap economies of scale and diversity. Provincial utilities also instituted “postage stamp” rates, meaning that the similar classes of customers paid the same price or “rate” for electricity within a province.
Given the logic of scale and economies, why didn’t the process continue to make a national or a series of regional grids? Ottawa did establish the National Energy Board to regulate international and interprovincial electricity trade, but not exercise its jurisdiction in interprovincial electricity trade and transmission systems. This is not for want of trying. As Karl Froschauer documents, Ottawa tried to start a national energy grid in the early 1960s only to be blocked on the grounds that provinces did not want to give up jurisdiction or control over interconnected power generation facilities–a necessary step in setting up grid independent of any one provincial electrical system. (Cass-Beggs 1964; Froschauer 1999) As Ottawa gave up the idea of a national grid, national power policy turned to prebuild export strategies, though the expansion of domestic energy demand made income derived from exports less important over time. Still, Ottawa attempted to set up regional Maritime and Western power grids the next decade–only to fail.
One explanation for this state of affairs is simply that the relative economics of interprovincial trade did not appeal to provinces. After all, even if imported energy was marginally less expense that provincially supplied energy, it would lack the backwards economic linkages so important to staples industries. Moreover, as well shall see below continental trade and network integration was much more important to energy planners.
A second explanation lies in the political weakness of the postwar federal energy regime. Ottawa’s postwar national energy policy regime began with a consensus with provinces on developing energy resources and facilitating a pattern of exportation that would not threaten future Canadian energy supply, and that would make a reasonable return to producers. Ottawa subsidized the planning and construction of hydro mega-projects, and transferring lands and transmission technology, initially subordinating its fiduciary responsibility towards Aboriginal lands to the priority of project construction. The National Energy Board (NEB) was established in 1959, to exercise its authority in international and interprovincial petroleum, natural gas and electricity trade, as well as pipelines and transmission systems.
The consensus would not remain last long. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo sparked a legitimacy crisis because the NEB’s over reliance on the large multinational oil companies for essential policy information led to a perceived energy supply crisis–a significant policy failure. The problem for petroleum, and equally true for the electricity sector, was that the NEB had also become dependent upon, and perhaps a representative of, the utility sector. Change would have to come from other quarters.
The overriding provincial responsibility for electricity ensured that Ottawa did not have to take responsibility for overextended utilities and the pressures they presented to provincial treasuries. But the Ottawa did have responsibilities for Aboriginal Peoples, for the environment and for a national energy policy. These were the issue agendas that marked Ottawa’s influence on provincial electrical energy regimes. (Robinson and Hooker 1987) Certainly by the mid 1970s Ottawa had moved away from the unqualified support for hydro mega-projects, taking on the role as a broker between provincial governments, Aboriginal peoples and environmentalists.
On a more fundamental level, the constitution and the dynamics of Canadian federalism would not enable Ottawa to take any serious lead in electricity policy. The 1970s witnessed intense federal-provincial conflict stemming from competition for fiscal resources, increasing competition between pan Canadian and Quebec nationalism, and long standing regional disputes fuelled by the oil crisis. The oil crisis ignited intense regional and intergovernmental conflicts over the federal intervention to construct a national energy policy and western provinces’ attempts to capture economic rents from resources. (Doern and Toner 1985; Richards and Pratt 1979) The end result of these conflicts was a series of constitutional changes that solidified provincial control over natural resources, explicitly recognizing provincial responsibility for hydro development, and a Charter of Rights to define a set of pancanadian relations between state and society.
It should be noted that the Newfoundland-Quebec Churchill River power contract emerged as an anomaly to the decentralized electrical energy policy regime, an anomaly that has continually fuelled regional grievance and questioned the legitimacy of the federal regime. Others have documented the case. (Froschauer 1999; Premier Brian Tobin 1996; Smith 1975) The essential problem was that when the financially weak Government of Newfoundland and Labrador started the hydro development (originally designated for US markets), it found that the government of Quebec exercised monopsony powers–the power of a single consumer, who, in theory uses market leverage to ensure that the supplier makes no returns to capital. And that is what the Government of Quebec did. Quebec refused to allow the Newfoundland the right to transmit its Labrador power across its territory to US export markets. In a text book example of monopsony power it then offered to save the project from a $ 800 million dollar financial collapse by having Hydro Quebec finance and build the project. In return, Quebec asked for part ownership of the project, and a contract dedicating the majority of the project’s power to Quebec Hydro, at declining prices, for up to sixty-five years. Though Quebec leadership was absolutely stunned that Newfoundland would agree to such terms, successive generations of Newfoundland have been shocked and humiliated by their staggering losses. Less than a decade later the contract, supplying Quebec with about one third of its domestic electricity needs, represented a windfall value of over $500 million per year, a sum that would only rise over time. Try as it might, the Government of Newfoundland could not break or amend the contract, nor get Quebec to renegotiate critical aspects of price or duration, or to open up Quebec Hydro’s lines to transmit surplus Labrador power to US markets. Even Ottawa tabled legislation to force Quebec to allow the Government of Newfoundland build a power transmission corridor through its territory, though the emptiness of the threat was readily apparent. The government of Quebec, on the other hand, desired to settle the contract issue in the context of negotiations about the full development of Churchill Falls resources.
Without a regime change to redress the imbalance in bargaining, there is no reason to assume that Quebec’s monopsony power would not again, shape the outcome of any bilateral trade agreement, reenforcing a situation that Bernard terms the most important hydro rent seeking failure in the history of Canada. (Bernard 1989)
Canada-United States Policy Integration as a Policy Driver: Conservation and Trade Regimes
An important part of the postwar hydro policy centred on the economies of functional integration of cross border regions. During the 1950s Ottawa worked with the US government and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec to make an agreement on Saint Lawrence River hydro development–in parcel with an emerging pact on the construction of an international Seaway system extending Canada’s inland ocean ports from Montréal to Lake Superior’s Thunder Bay. Also, through IJC processes Ottawa coordinated the negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, and agreement whereby stabilization of the Columbia’s tributaries in Canada by means of dams and reservoirs allowed for greater power development in the lower Columbia. In return for the stabilization, BC was to receive an equivalent to half the extra energy produced. Eventually the BC government used the Columbia River money to help finance hydro development on the Peace River. (Swainson 1979) The IJC process also led to conservation regimes on the Saint John’s River and the sharing of the costs of New Brunswick’s diesel electric generating capacity with the state of Maine.
The functional integration between Canada and the United States also took the form of tackling a problem of reliability. In 1965 a major ice storm in Québec tripped a prolonged blackout throughout North Eastern North America. Three years later, the United States response was to set up a voluntary non profit corporation, National Electric Reliability Council (NERC), to promote, educate, assess and monitory system reliability issues. To aid in this process, NERC set up a system of regional reliability councils through the United States, collections of systems that evolved into regional groups of cooperating utilities that became institutional stepping stones for Canadian utilities seeking greater market and reliability integration.
The NEB rose to become the central regulator of international electricity trade and international transmission facilities. To ally the traditional nationalist concerns, NEB regulation confined exports to energy surplus to domestic needs, and, as well, placed time limitations on export licences. Unlike the Canadian petroleum sector, Canadian electricity did not take an overall staples export structure. Total Canadian exports to the US were less than seven percent of total production, and US exports not even reaching a quarter of one percent of US production.
By the 1970s, electricity trade and interconnections represented an equitable functional integration in which benefits were shared by all participants. (Perlgut 1978) In the Maritimes, New Brunswick Hydro had one small interconnection with the state of Maine–and would continue agreements sharing capacity with interconnected US utilities for the period. The Ontario network became functionally integrated with those of New York and Michigan as their interconnected grids saw power flow clockwise around Lakes Ontario and Erie. Additionally, there was a great deal of economy energy exchange with Michigan. Indeed, US auto interests worked out a set of US regulatory exceptions that allowed then unregulated access to Ontario electricity. (Perlgut 1978) Ottawa did not allow Ontario to export nuclear-electricity and eventually placed an environmental charge on coal generated electricity exports.
Slightly different trading relationship emerged in the hydro-electricity provinces. The proliferation of small international interconnections that characterized the formative paradigm in Quebec had been eliminated, and instead, Hydro Quebec was building large capacity interconnections with the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY) , exporting energy in a form of seasonal diversity exchange to offset costs of financing the James Bay development. Though Quebec would eventually develop more hydro capacity than any other province, it has primarily been for domestic as opposed to export markets. (Laundry 1984)
Similarly, new international connections between Manitoba and Minnesota reflected a prebuild export strategy for energy flowing from Manitoba Hydro’s Nelson River power corridor. Though Manitoba’s export strategy was based upon seasonal differences in energy demand with its US partners, early years of export saw great quantities of ‘surplus’ energy simply dumped on the export market. (Netherton 1993) British Columbia developed several interconnections with Bonneville Power Authority (BPA), the US federally owned utility, itself based on the Ontario Hydro model, that was charged with developing the hydro potential of the Columbia. Domestic opposition to a Site C, a large mega-project on the Peace River, stopped BC from fostering a staples export relationship, although the provincial utility did become an effective opportunistic trader on the regional market.
The Emerging Supra National Power of FERC
Continental and hemispheric integration provide a direct link between regime change and the rise of United States policy influence. Here there is some debate on the effects the nature of this influence. Contemporary NeoInnisians argue Canada loses it’s sovereignty and national autonomy vs a vs the United States. For Glen Williams, Canada becomes a periphery of the centre, a formulation that essentially argues that there are two states in a single economy. (Williams 1989) Given increasing market dependence, this situation leaves the Canadian state only regional autonomy within the North American context. One of the implications of that argument is that Canada has to politically construct or redefine its sovereignty in these new conditions. The real question, then, becomes what it the extent of US influence in Canada? NeoInnisians look at the regional trade agreements, such as the FTA, NAFTA and the emerging Free Trade for the Americas Agreement, as quasi- constitutional frameworks or structures that embed neoliberal values and the interests of dominant institutions in public policy processes. (Clarkson and Cohen 2004) At the same time, Clarkson argues that domestic political forces could, if mobilized, shape the Canada-United States relationship in the national interest, in other words the increased US influence in Canadian affairs is a product of the ascendancy of Canadian neoliberalism. (Clarkson 2002) In an interesting combination of integration and international political economy literature, Peter Leslie argues further that the United States is leading a process of hegemonic regionalization, a argument that is useful in capturing the emerging supranational role of US energy regulators in the continental energy markets. Additionally, the hegemonic power thesis is meant to explain why Canada responds to US domestic policy, regardless of treaty contours, more than the opposite, the US responding to Canadian domestic policy. (Leslie 2002) This view highlights the politics and role of hegemonic powers in formulating regimes more than their ordering effects.
Marjorie Griffin Cohen, writes extensively on Canadian hydro from a this perspective, focussing on the ways in which trade agreements and US energy policy undermine sovereignty and shapes Canadian intervention in hydro. (Cohen 2002; Cohen 2004) The implicit argument is that the neoliberalism legitimizes investment opportunity structures for US capital in Canadian electricity regimes, that it is antithetical to rent seeking and implicitly transfers Canadian resource rents to US markets.
The influence of continental integration was gradual. In 1988, the Canadian government established a new electricity policy in which National Energy Board export regulations were changed to conform to the terms of the FTA. The older security of supply and price protection regulations were replaced by concerns for third party effects, environmental standards and fair market access by other potential Canadian customers. The post-FTA Canadian electricity policy purposely conformed to the established parameters of provincial dominance. The NEB would not regulate interprovincial electricity trade or interconnections, and gave signal that it would consider objections from other provinces before giving the ok to new international power lines. (Canada. Energy Mines and Resources Canada 1988) In keeping with an objective to reduce regulatory duplication and inefficiency, these new electricity policy expressed interest in establishing, with provinces, national environmental standards, and hoped, as well, that provinces could fill in any policy vacuum by establishing regulatory policies of their own. Additionally, the open access provisions were a significant step facilitating interprovincial integration because they ensured, for the first time, that each of the vertically integrated provincial utilities had to share their planning with others. Not surprisingly, the policy did not change the status quo regarding interprovincial trade, not break the monopsony powers of Quebec over any potential Labrador power.
The FTA did not open up floodgates of electricity trade between Canadian provincial and US utility networks. The US regime, unlike its Canadian counterpart, was much more fragmented and each held on to the custom that utilities were not obliged to “wheel” or transport a third party’s energy, along its lines. Traditionally Canadian exporters had considered this wheeling problem as the major obstacle to developing long term diversity exchanges with southern US networks. To increase trade, it seems that US domestic policy regime would have to change.
In 1992, a new US Energy Policy was founded on the assumption of internal market failure; that the US had a great deal of electricity production capacity, it was not efficient and not well distributed. In contrast to the Canadian case, the US federal government has expansive powers over interstate as well as international trade, and has a long history of using federal powers to macro manage the electrical energy sector. It embarked upon a bold initiative to establish competitive markets for the supply, transmission and distribution of electricity throughout the United States and, through trade, Canada. The United States was to be organized into a set of Regional Trading Groups (RTGs). Each of these groups would form the rules and conditions of trade within each area. Eventually, Canadian utilities would have to be part of an RTG in order to trade within US market. The concept of an RTG would later give way to that or a Regional Trading orgnization, or RTO. RTOs are defined as a “functioning voluntary organization (of transmission owners, transmission users and other entities approved by FERC) to efficiently coordinate transmission planning and expansion, operation, and use on a regional and inter-regional basis,” in other words, regional self-contained electricity networks. (National Energy Board 2005)
During the early stages of the FERC initiative, The Canadian government displayed passivity in the policy field. There are obvious explanations or rationalizations for what amounts to a defacto policy vacuum or abdication. The Canadian federation was caught in a national unity crisis from 1987 until 1995. The immediate crisis ended when pro-federalist forces in Quebec narrowly won another sovereignty referendum. In the aftermath, Ottawa would engaged in a defacto decentralization of the federation, studiously avoiding conflicts over jurisdiction and formal constitutional processes. Given the importance of hydro and electrical energy policy to provincial politics, the idea of direct intervention was not likely.
As the US government turned towards creating its own version of the epistemic regime, the NEB, surveyed provincial utilities and provincial governments to ascertain if they would support it taking on a role regulating interprovincial energy trade. Several choices were offered, from establishing interprovincial grids to simply being an independent arbitrator in the case of disputes in the existing or reformed bilateral exchange model. The answer was an overwhelming negative. (Canada. National Energy Board 1992) By 1996, when FERC began market restructuring in earnest, there were no public objections from Ottawa, no visible binational or intergovernmental processes to mediate FERC’s regulatory authority, nor policy recognition of Canadian national exceptionalism within FERC regulations. Yet is not clear that FERC had the legal powers to force Canadian utilities to conform to their regulations.(Cohen 2004; Howse and Heckman 1996)
Four initial FERC regulatory orders and policies with significant extraterritorial impact provide the parameters of the attempt to institutionalize a new energy policy regime in the 1996-2004 period. In 1996 FERC authored Order 888, commonly known as the “open access” or “reciprocity” provision. This ordered utilities wanting to have access to US markets to allow access of US utilities to their markets. This request could have been handled in a number of different ways. At a maximum utilities could completely deintegrate and adopt the new epistemic regime, and at minimum, integrated monopoly utilities could simply undergo an internal reorganization or “ functional restructuring” to set up different and autonomous generation, transmission and distribution divisions or subsidiaries. Each utility could therefore outline a series of consistent market prices for the use of its transmission system. These open access tariffs transmission tariffs (OATT) are the costs that the utility would charge others for wheeling (transporting) their energy. The condition of open access meant a utility that wanted to trade in the US could not bar other utilities access to its own system. Along with 888 was Order No. 889 demanding that the utilities had to use the same time sharing data system. (The idea of a market for electricity depends giving instantaneous price signals using the advanced levels of information technology.) In 1997, in response the wave of mergers and acquisitions that came with deregulation, FERC issued Order No 592, a policy that attempted to ensure that corporate mergers and restructuring did not thwart the intent to establish competitive markets. Finally, in December 1999, FERC issued Order No. 2000, asking that all utilities wanting to trade in US markets apply to join a RTO by October, 2000, or show cause why they have not done so. FERC could not directly apply this condition to Canadian utilities since they were not under its direct legal authority, although, interconnected Canadian utilities had to weigh costs of entry and exclusion.
By 2000 several different models of the new energy regime had emerged in the United States, but the most symbolic new starts were costly failures (Jaccard 2002; Woo, Lloyd and Tishler 2003). In California, the flaws in the initial model negotiated among key stakeholders stumbled into a financial and policy disaster. Policy failure and the bankruptcy of large distribution utilities eroded the support for FERC and its market regime within the state. A great deal of uncertainty, therefore, grew around the “deregulation” issue. Other factors also worked to undermine confidence in the ‘deregulation’ process. Enron, the star of the new transnational energy companies that had grown on market deregulation and used the new utility regime as an global investment opportunity, declared bankruptcy under the shadow of systemic accounting improprieties. Political attention then turned towards holding the new economy corporations more accountable. Energy policy debate then turned toward establishing a “standard market design” (SMD) that would guide utilities in forming the market rules within newly formed RTGs. In July, 2002, FERC issued a notification that it would make rules concerning a standard market design. This was followed in 2003 with a white paper and a consultation process (US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 2003). However, at time of writing, FERC has not finished this process. Significant opposition to the FERC model developed in the south as well in California–implying that despite the ample administrative and legal power, FERC and federal authorities in Washington will have to find a compromise to meet regional interests as it delineates its ‘standard market design.’
In a useful recent comparison of international electricity trade, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Hira and Froschauer, indicate that Canada and the United States have the most integrated electricity markets in the world. Thought total Canadian exports vary, they do not exceed 9 percent of total generation while imports from the United States are less than one percent of US total generation. The significant fact is that capacity of international interconnections is about 17% of total Canadian generation capacity, implying that short-term trade remains an integral part of managing Canadian energy supply. The overall picture emerges of a complex regional integration, not a staples export relationship, nor a profound market dependence. (Pineau, Hira and Froschauer 2004)
Predicably, all Canadian utilities with US interconnections were fairly quick, with some regulatory challenges, to minimally meet FERC reciprocity demands with a functional restructuring and adoption of OATTs. However, at time of writing no Canadian utility had joined an RTO, for much the same reason that provinces refused Canadian federal government initiatives to form a national grid. Membership represents a significant loss of control over provincial energy transmission grids and linked capacity investment. At root, the concept of RTO shifts the energy problem from a “provincial” to a transnational, but primarily American regional problem. On the other side, exclusion from RTOs implies significantly higher transaction costs for Canadian traders.
Still, there has been western Canadian participation in RTO formation. In order to protect its regional market access, Manitoba worked out an “external participant” coordination agreement with the Midwest Independent System Operator, (MISO) a fully market based RTO that replaced MAPP. British Columbia, as well, been involved in the negotiations concerning GridWest, the RTO for the Pacific Northwest–although no decisions have been made on the final form of the provincial participation. Other western Canadian stakeholders are looking primarily for ways to increase the transmission infrastructure for electricity from Alberta through BC onto the California market. Emera, the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, and a minority participant in the New Brunswick and New England energy markets has expressed interests in greater New England - Maritime Provinces energy integration. Nova Scotia Power is now making minimal open access tariffs and is interested in a new jointly-owned transmission line from Nova Scotia through New Brunswick to Maine.
The emergence of FERC as a supranational regulator also coincides with the increasing reliability problems associated with increased trade. The issue came to a head with an August 2003 blackout, caused when a regional US electrical system experienced a set of problems that caused a series of cascading power failures, eventually putting 50 million Canadian and Americans in the dark. A binational report into the incident recommends replacing NERC with a new Electrical Reliability Organization with the authority to enforce standards on utilities. Present path dependency would see FERC take over reliability regulation within the context of the proposed regional trading organizations, though the Canadian industry seeks a model with formal binational governance structures.
The “quasi-staples” status of hydro has to be reflected in any summation of its “post-staples” trajectory. The concept of resource scarcity, from a Ricardian point of view, really centres on its relative scarcity. During the formative paradigm relative abundance depended upon geographic endowments. In the age of mega-projects and provincial hydros, scarcity was reduced by the advances in long distance transmission technologies and by the seemingly unlimited financial capacity of publically owned utilities. In the third, neoliberal-sustainable paradigm, resource scarcity is more the product of the price mechanism in markets where alternative technologies and fuels are available for purchase. Hydro, along with other “renewable” resources, has the advantage of being sustainable, a prized quality in an age of increasing market scarcity.
New staples analysis has always focussed on the creation and redistribution of economic rents and linkages. In the formative paradigm, the key issues were the distribution of rents to subsidize industrialization, and the process of urban electrification. In the second paradigm, rents were distributed through “cheap rates” to subsidize and facilitate the development of mass production and mass consumption. In the third paradigm, post-staples rents and linkages are oriented towards sustainable development. Hence ‘smart’ consumption has replaced ‘mass’ consumption and “demand side management”has replaced the “cheap power” policy. There are exceptions. Large industrial consumers of electricity can shop around in a “retail market” to get cheap power. Additionally, as provincial utilities have stopped building mega-projects, provincial governments have not been afraid to ‘tax’ rents, or collect dividends, as a way to augment provincial coffers. Economist will say that unless hydro pricing approximates marginal costs, the paradigm will not meet its sustainable objectives.
Thinking of hydro as one of many technologies to generate electricity also introduces several post-staples changes. In the first paradigm electricity was made with the most readably available resource–primarily, but not exclusively hydro. The second paradigm ushered in the era of ‘big’ technologies and projects, increasingly larger hydro projects, nuclear reactors and coal thermal plants–with all the attendant political, social and environmental issues particular to each. In the third paradigm, we find that electrical energy regimes have far greater choice in technologies. In the sustainable side, there are a series of benign and/or sustainable technologies that are and can be further developed for energy production; such as wind farms, photovoltaic and small scale hydro. Natural gas has entered into the generation technologies with the efficient ‘combined cycle gas turbine.’ As a result, energy planners have the choice of alternative and competing technologies, big and small. Current energy policy planners in Ontario, for example, have the choice between revamping older coal plants, buying new hydroelectricity from Labrador and Manitoba, reinvesting in a revamped nuclear technology and investing in natural gas combined cycle turbine technology.
Networks have also changed. In the first paradigm networks were essentially defined by small urban regions with fixed borders, and as institutions they were simply command and control–competing to extend their control over relatively remote resources and urban populations. In the second paradigm, networks were organized by provincial jurisdictions, and in a process fraught with contestation, provincial hydro networks extended their reach into northern peripheries.
More or less structured trade relations developed between Canadian and US grids in five cross border regions. In the third paradigm, the nature of electricity grids began to change substantially. First, due to a neoliberal reordering, electricity networks are more complex and also significantly more open. Second, the older command and control networks oriented towards the transmission and distribution of energy from large mega projects is giving away to the idea of a more open grid, where utility consumers can also, through distributed generation, supply energy to the grid. In terms of issues of reliability and openness, future grids may closely resemble the dynamics of the internet.
One of the most contested aspects of a hydro or electrical energy policy paradigms is its regime. In the early era of monopoly’s moment, Canada had a set of heterogeneous provincial regimes, that had, for the most part, closed opportunity structures. There was a mixture of private and public ownership. While Canadian and American governments worked out durable conservation regimes for boundary waters, for the most part, Canadian provincial governments could not overcome the obstacles of fragmentation, inequity and inefficiency. The second paradigm confirmed provincial dominance in hydro affairs, and witnessed the growth of effective national regulation of international trade. Though the powerful provincial hydro regimes were grounded on a broad Keynesian consensus, they were also closed, continually inviting contestation from those who paid the direct costs for subsidized production and consumption of energy. In cases were utilities could not manage the gap between the historical cheap power policy and the higher costs of new capacity, the resulting financial and fiscal pressures transformed the postwar Keynesian consensus into class divided networks of support and opposition to neoliberal alternatives.
The third regime is not fully established. While advocates for change sought a neoliberal revolution, they ended up with an unstable system of managed competition and increasingly transnational electricity grids. Privatization has not generally taken place, and provincial governments are carefully seeking ways to legitimate the new regime. Sustainable development interests began the paradigm with an implicit alliance with neoliberal forces, but have ended up somewhat disenchanted by new regime’s poor performance on the environmental issues.
The evolving regime is highly influenced by the increasingly supranational role the US government has played in reorganizing continental markets, demanding reciprocal access to each nations grids, leveraging Canadian membership in regional trading organizations and fostering the deintegration of the older vertically integrated utilities. The sustainability components of the existing regime are less well designed. There are several explanation for this weakness stemming from the increasing costs and complexity of the new regime. However, it is also clear that Canada has to resolve the tension between multilateral commitments towards Kyoto implementation and the realities of increasing continental integration with a non signatory to the Kyoto protocol.
Finally, the implicit identity of electricity networks change significantly. During the formative regime, the major identity for electricity networks was local–stemming from the regional articulation of networks that made up provincial systems. During the second paradigm, the identity and focus for politics was primarily provincial, though export regulation brought an important national articulation to electricity politics. In the third paradigm, identities and politics have shifted significantly. The transnational articulation of markets and the openness of networks means that one can no longer speak of a “provincial hydro” in the sense of an institution that automatically gives priority to the local or provincial interest. Networks are increasingly defined by continental region, hemispheric and international investment regimes, and regional US hegemony. Provincially owned utilities no longer have a monopoly right to produce power, and several new large non-utility independent power producers have grow to supply energy to the new regimes. Some hydros have converged with former natural gas utilities to take advantage of new fuels and technologies. BC Hydro, like Ontario Hydro, has been broken into pieces along the lines of he neoliberal model, while Quebec Hydro has grown to be one of the largest energy companies in the world.
Electrical Energy Policy: A Research Agenda
Social Learning and Metamorphosis
How do governments learn when orchestrating change? Looking through the policy reports and documents tracing the evolution of each province’s restructuring process, it is striking how policy develops as one set of elites draws lessons from other jurisdictions’ policy successes and failures as well as from the tactics of political opposition. What was the social learning process as different governments approached change? In short, there is ample material for case studies of policy learning in a policy field normally closed to outsiders.
The Politics of Diffusion and the Explanations of Provincial Differences During the second and third paradigms, Canadian provinces adopted what was then current epistemic models of electrical energy regimes. What was the path of diffusion? What are the particularly Canadian innovations or features of the new epistemic model? What explains differences between provincial cases? Comparative analyses will help fill in this void and contribute to our knowledge of how smaller jurisdictions make policy in an internationalized and global context.
Globalization, Transnationalism and Internationalization
Kari Levitt wrote that Canadian public utilities were one of the last bastions of Canadian entrepreneurship. Of course Levitt’s assessment of Canadian capitalists is contested by many. Nevertheless, all Canadian utilities have responded to the recent merger movement, setting up international subsidiaries, and seeking partners within the North American market. Aboriginal peoples and Canadian energy related NGO’s have as well, become more transnational in their focus. Research is needed to outline, compare, analyse and valuate these processes.
Technology, Innovation and Energy
Canadian utilities were dependent upon US technology during the first paradigm. During the second paradigm Canada became a centre of international research in the long distance transmission of electricity. Presently, the government of Canada has become committed to “green” technologies as parts of its industrial, sustainable energy and economic strategies. Little is known published about innovation regime of the contemporary Canadian electrical energy sector, nor its relationship with larger US research centres. Studies of innovation systems in this sector would be key to understanding the mechanisms of our response to Kyoto an to the challenges of “green innovation” as an industrial strategy.
Electricity Sector and Climate Change
When addressing climate change through the mirror of regime change, emphasis was placed on the relative merits of marketing energy produced from different technologies. The relationship of electricity to global climate change, is much broader. There is needed research on mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Plan. There is also basic interdisciplinary research needed on the projected effect of global warming on river and drainage systems, and how the energy sector itself will deal with major challenge.
Electrical Energy Regimes and Sustainable Development
The new hydro policy regime has tied sustainability to market mechanisms. But is their any empirical evidence to indicate how well IPPs perform in relation to provincial hydros and the new provincial generation, grid companies and energy authorities? Such research would be highly relevant to current energy policy agendas.
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