Energy Law, Electricity, Federalism, Constitutional Law, Sustainability, Distributive Justice

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Canada has an electricity crisis, though this crisis has been the status quo for so long that little attention is paid to it by politicians or policymakers. The crisis is provincially balkanized electricity systems with a dearth of interprovincial transmission lines, and the impacts are three-fold: first, the country is divided into renewable have- and have-not provinces, with some jurisdictions generating more hydropower than they need while others struggle to wean themselves off of coal and natural gas. Second, the lack of interprovincial transmission is a deterrent to private investment in renewable energy projects, which is holding Canada back from meeting its climate commitments in a way that provides major economic gains. Third, much of the country is off-grid, relying on expensive, unreliable, and dangerous diesel fuel for power. A robust national market for renewable power could provide opportunities for off-grid communities to connect to larger transmission infrastructure and/or to sell power from their own renewable projects into this market.

A first step in addressing these issues is to create a new market for interprovincial power sales by exercising federal jurisdiction over the permitting of interprovincial transmission lines, in order to encourage private companies to enter the market and remove some of the financial burden from provinces. Given the national and provincial goals of reducing power from coal-fired power plants and the urgency of energy access issues in many parts of the country, it is time for the federal government to assume at least some of its infrastructure transmission jurisdiction to ensure just transition to safe, renewable power sources and promote investment in renewable projects across the country. To that end, this Article will lay out the Constitutional basis for federal jurisdiction over interprovincial power lines, as well as the Constitutional limits on that jurisdiction that will keep provincial grids under provincial control.

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