A new study from the University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program explores the relationships within public energy decision systems, specifically between regulators with responsibilities for the approval of resource development and infrastructure, and other actors in energy decision-making in Canada. We examine these relationships through the lens of regulatory independence and, ultimately, effectiveness, via five case studies Canadian energy regulators with diverse structures and mandates.
This report sets out a framework for what makes a public energy decision system effective, what makes regulators more or less independent, and how independence bears on the question of effectiveness. The question of effectiveness rests on three essential elements: functionality (can it get the job done); adaptability (can it evolve with changing circumstances); and legitimacy (can it sustain broad public confidence). These three elements and their constituent parts together produce several tensions or unavoidable tradeoffs.
Those responsible for designing energy project decision systems for net zero should take careful account of the conclusions and recommendations that emerge from this research.