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Faculty Focus | Guy Holburn looks at obstacles to renewable energy

Volume 17, Number 6
June 2011

Watch a 5-minute interview with Guy Holburn, Director of Energy@Ivey, on regulation in the electricity sector

Renewable energy might be seen as a bright light in the electricity sector, but unstable policy environments often hinder investors to this area.
Guy Holburn, Director of Energy@Ivey, has been researching governance and regulation in the electricity sector and will be presenting his findings at a conference on June 2 called Governance and Regulation in the Electricity Sector: Balancing Independence With Accountability.
The event, organized by Energy@Ivey, the Council for Clean and Reliable Electricity, Gowlings and University of Waterloo, will bring together energy-sector experts to discuss how electricity policies are made and who should be responsible for the decision-making.
Holburn will present his recently released report, Guidelines for Governance of the Electricity Sector in Canada.
"We're trying to understand how the allocation of policy-making authority - to Ministers, agencies or even the legislature - ultimately influences the development of the sector," said Holburn.
According to Holburn, the electricity sector in Canada is facing some challenges, including upward cost pressures as Canada tries to implement greater use of environmentally friendly renewable energy, which is more expensive. Although Canada is encouraging investments in renewable energy, investors have been frustrated by the instability of the policy environment.
Holburn and Ivey researchers last year surveyed more than 100 renewable energy companies in Canada and abroad to determine what aspects of the policy environment were important to them. Results showed a key factor was the stability of the policy environment and Canada, particularly Ontario, is poorly ranked in that area compared to other jurisdictions. In Ontario, energy policies are controlled by the Minister of Energy, yet Ministers change frequently, leaving policies to be adjusted or abandoned.
"Centralised control of policy in the Ministry can have a fundamental impact on the performance of the sector and whether or not it's operating efficiently," said Holburn. "It exposes the sector to short-term political pressures, which undermines long-term planning efforts. One of the challenges for government is to create the structure for a more stable, predictable environment so that it will be easier to attract sufficient levels of investment."

For more information on the report and the conference, please visit Energy@Ivey.


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