2022–23 Annual Report of the Commission of the Canada Energy Regulator – What the Future Holds

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What the Future Holds

The role of energy in Canada, and across the world, is evolving. The trend to more sustainable and greener energy will continue as the goal of net-zero emissions, defined by the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, is put into action. The CER Act has provisions to ensure more sustainable energy development. Subsections 183 (2) and 262 (2) state that the Commission, when deciding to issue a certificate for a pipeline or powerline, respectively, must consider the extent to which the effects of the pipeline or powerline hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments in respect of climate change.

Future revisions to the Filing Manual, as planned for 2023–24, will outline and refine criteria for both the Commission and applicants to consider as projects are planned and adjudicated to support net-zero emission goals. During this transition, the Commission will continue to ensure that Canadians are provided safe and dependable transport of energy, while providing certainty, transparency, efficiency, and enhanced guidance for industry and Canadians.

The energy transition to low carbon is also being modelled by the CER for inclusion in its Energy Futures reports. While this work is being undertaken by the CER rather than the Commission, these models help all Canadians anticipate potential energy shifts and new technologies and provide a window to future energy applications. This forward-looking information helps the Commission proactively gather insights as regulatory procedures, best practices and new insights develop and evolve. The information will also support updates to Filing Manual guidance.

It should be noted that during the reporting period the Commission did not receive any applications for offshore renewable energy or carbon capture projects. Applications for hydrogen pipelines that cross international or inter-provincial borders are within the CER’s mandate for regulatory oversight; however, no such applications have been received to date. It is expected that the Commission’s role in this area will likely grow over time.

As with all its processes, the Commission will continue its practice of collecting “lessons learned” to determine improvements to its systems and processes, which includes implementing learnings from its work with Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders, growing and building relationships, and furthering the Government of Canada’s journey towards Reconciliation. The Commission will provide respectful and effective ways of hearing and considering Indigenous knowledge in its proceedings and decisions and will utilize learnings from past processes.

As an expert tribunal, the Commission will also continue to build expertise by staying on top of leading developments in the energy, regulatory, and adjudicative spaces and by ensuring involvement in annual continuing education. This includes learning from its collective experiences to improve and refine its hearing formats. The Commission will also strive to identify, reduce, and where feasible, remove barriers to accessibility in the hearing environment, as guided by the CER’s Accessibility Plan.

A long, straight stretch of road leading into the mountains

The Commission will continue to increase process efficiencies while also looking at new ways to achieve this goal. To achieve this, some of its processes provide flexibility which can greatly reduce administrative burden. For example, using Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) allows CER staff to act as a mediator on certain files, such as compensation matters, which often results in settlement and enables parties to achieve outcomes prior to the need for the Commission to adjudicate on an application. The Commission also considered several applications filed pursuant to the Negotiated Settlement Guidelines in 2022–23. These Guidelines provide a framework to expeditiously consider applications when toll applications are negotiated in advance and are unopposed by parties. These efficiencies in turn foster competitiveness and innovation within the Commission’s processes, and this will continue in the coming year.

The Commission will also continue to use early engagement and agreement tools such as the above noted Negotiated Settlement Guidelines and technical workshops to assist in resolving issues early on, and incorporating inputs from Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders into designs and mitigations as ways to support streamlined processes.

Many of the Commission’s ongoing initiatives were mentioned in a recent letter to the CER Chairperson from the Minister of Natural ResourcesFootnote 5. This letter highlighted that the Commission is a leader in managing the public interest with government priorities. The Commission will continue to focus on working to ensure safe and efficient delivery of energy to Canada and the world, protecting the environment, enhancing Canada’s global competitiveness, and recognizing and respecting the rights of landowners, Indigenous Peoples, and regulated companies, within the mandate set by Parliament.

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