Terms of Reference: Canada Electricity Advisory Council
- The Government of Canada has committed to moving away from unabated fossil fuels and achieving net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 while also rapidly expanding the clean electricity grid to meet the growing electricity demand required to support a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. To support this commitment, the Minister of Natural Resources was mandated to establish the Canada Electricity Advisory Council (Electricity Council).
- Recognizing that decision-making in the electricity sector is primarily the domain of the provinces, territories, and their utilities, and that most are self-sufficient when it comes to electricity supply, the Electricity Council’s advice will respect provincial and territorial jurisdiction over electricity systems, and focus on net benefits to all Canadians while driving progress towards both the 2035 and 2050 goals.
- The Electricity Council will operate within the context of existing and planned federal legislation and regulation, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, 2018, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act and the Government of Canada’s ongoing development of Clean Electricity Regulations.
- Given that there are existing federally funded entities that advise the Government of Canada on climate and energy related matters, such as the Net-Zero Advisory Body, the Electricity Council will carry out its mandate so to be complementary to the work of these bodies, leveraging their expertise and experience as available. As well, it is recommended that the Electricity Council draw on insights that arise from the work of the Regional Energy and Resource Tables and the Atlantic Loop.
- As per Budget 2022, the Government of Canada has committed $2.4 million, through NRCan, over one year to fund the Electricity Council, including analysis and administrative expenditures that may need to be undertaken.
- The Electricity Council will act as an independent, electricity-sector focussed, expert advisory body to provide advice to the Minister of Natural Resources to accelerate investment, and promote sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity systems. Accordingly, the Electricity Council shall examine and provide expert advice to government on key questions related to governance and decision-making to help federal, provincial, territorial and industry stakeholders, and Indigenous groups meet the objectives of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 and the rapid growth of electricity needed to power a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
- The Electricity Council shall examine and provide advice with respect to potential challenges or opportunities to advance and accelerate infrastructure investments, smart grids, grid integration and electricity sector innovation, and to sustain a reliable grid in a net-zero emissions future. In particular:
- Identify regulatory and policy opportunities to promote and enable sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity systems, optimizing and leveraging regional strengths and clean energy resource endowments. E.g.; regulatory approaches to reduce risk and enable capacity growth in anticipation of new demands
- Promote infrastructure investments, grid modernization and innovation by exploring mechanisms to support the secure and timely development and adoption of cost-effective clean electricity technology solutions. E.g.; identifying prospects to deploy cutting-edge technologies, equipment, and controls to deliver electricity more reliably and efficiently
- Identify collaborative opportunities where provinces, territories, and/or Indigenous groups can work together, and the role the federal government could play in supporting and accelerating such efforts, to achieve net-benefits for all Canadians. E.g.; regional coordination of electricity infrastructure planning to identify cost-saving, high-value clean electricity projects that lower costs for consumers
- Promote effective cost-saving electricity grid decarbonisation strategies to jurisdictions reliant on fossil-fuels for electricity generation to support and incentivize the transition to clean energy systems, and limit the affordability impact on consumers. E.g.; identify public-private partnership opportunities to enable jurisdictions to transition to renewable energy solutions
Lines of Inquiry
- To guide the Electricity Council’s work, the Council may establish sub-committees to support its considerations and independent advice. The Council’s work will be structured and examine issues related to the following themes:
- Facilitate Investment: Building out the infrastructure needed to support a net-zero emissions power system, while simultaneously expanding capacity as needed to decarbonize other areas of the economy, will require significant investment. Council should provide advice on barriers and solutions to enabling sufficient investment in clean power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure to meet net-zero 2035 and 2050 targets
- Timely Approvals: The pace of infrastructure build-out needed to meet net-zero 2035 and 2050 targets will need to increase significantly from recent years. Council should provide advice on barriers and solutions to ensure timely approvals of critical clean energy infrastructure projects, while respecting federal and provincial regulatory and legislative frameworks
- Minimize Costs: To meet net-zero 2035 and 2050 targets affordably, electric system operators will need to explore new ways to optimize the production, delivery and use of existing and new electricity technologies across Canada. Council should provide advice on potential opportunities and/or mechanisms for developing and implementing least-cost, net-zero emission electricity pathways. This could include mechanisms to encourage collaboration and coordination of provincial or regional electricity planning, among others, and should consider institutional frameworks used in the United States, European Union, Australia, and other relevant jurisdictions, while recognizing Canada’s division of responsibilities between provinces, territories and the federal government in electricity
- Benefit Indigenous Communities: The anticipated growth in energy infrastructure projects needed to meet net-zero 2035 and 2050 targets presents an opportunity for advancement of Canada’s Indigenous peoples’ economic and social well-being. Council should examine the potential role for and scope of Indigenous involvement in such projects, and advise on mechanisms to enhance the economic and social benefits that Indigenous communities can derive from new infrastructure projects
- Additional lines of inquiry may be added, if required.
Within 12 months of its first full meeting, the Electricity Council is asked to deliver a final report to the Minister of Natural Resources that will include:
- The mandate of the Electricity Council
- Its lines of inquiry, including any referred by the Minister
- Brief biographies and summaries of expertise, affiliations and interests of members
- A summary of any engagements that the Electricity Council undertook and the results
- A summary of the scientific information and knowledge, including Indigenous knowledge, respecting climate change that the Electricity Council took into account
- A summary of the environmental, economic, social and technological considerations that the Electricity Council took into account
- Policy recommendations and advice to the Minister and other audiences as they relate to the themes identified in the mandate
- A summary of any differences of opinion when not all members agreed with the advice
- The Minister is responsible for inviting candidates to participate in the Electricity Council. In doing so, the Minister must consider:
- Candidates’ technical and/or policy expertise in or knowledge of the electricity sector (including electricity generation, transmission, distribution, and regulation), Indigenous knowledge, and other relevant physical and social sciences, such as economic analysis and forecasting
- Candidates’ experience in consensus-building and intergovernmental work
- Regional representation, given the variety of electricity systems across Canada
- Gender and diversity balanced representation that reflects the interconnected dimensions equity, diversity and inclusion principles, particularly Indigenous Peoples.
- The Minister will designate a Electricity Council Chair to set direction and pace. The Electricity Council Chair will be responsible for:
- Establishing an agenda for each meeting, and officiating and leading all meetings
- Ending each meeting with a verbal summary of decisions and action items
- Reviewing minutes to ensure they are complete and accurate
- Striving to reach consensus amongst Electricity Council members
- Directing and overseeing research and analysis as needed to support the Council’s mission
- Providing guidance to the Electricity Council Secretariat
- External support (e.g., writers, facilitators, research and analysis) could be procured (at the direction of the Electricity Council Chair) to supplement existing capacity and fill gaps in expertise
- Industry associations, environmental non-governmental organizations and other parts of civil society may be engaged over the course of the Electricity Council’s work, though not considered for membership to keep the work of the Electricity Council focused on answering specific questions (as opposed to primarily representing views).
A secretariat, to be housed in Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) will be created and staffed to provide full-time logistical, administrative, and policy support to the work of the Electricity Council and its chair. It is important to note that the Secretariat will not be a part of the Electricity Council, but rather provide support to it.
The primary role of the Secretariat is to coordinate and support the Electricity Council in its work including:
- Providing professional support, including research, analysis and drafting of text or supporting documents, at the direction of the Electricity Council
- Coordinating and facilitating Electricity Council meetings and preparing minutes
- Providing data/information gathering and analysis for the Electricity Council as requested
- Working with the Chair to ensure that the Electricity Council operates within its allotted resources
- Managing budgets, remuneration and expenses, including any contracting or funding to third parties, including of any roles within secretariat purview
- Liaising with the Government of Canada and strategic partners
Electricity Council Members’ Conduct
- The conduct and behaviour of Electricity Council members will be guided by the following principles:
- Mutual Respect: Recognizing the range of expertise, experience and knowledge as well as the diversity of opinion and ideas among the Electricity Council, members are expected to work in a collegial manner characterized by mutual respect, fairness and efficient use of time
- Collaboration and Consensus-Building: Council members are expected to support open discussion and debate, and encourage fellow members to voice their insights. Members should strive to build consensus to the extent possible, and articulate it in the final report. However, nothing in these Terms of Reference shall require any member to agree on any specific issue
- Confidentiality: Council members are not to share confidential information received through participation in the Electricity Council, and/or attribute comments made by Electricity Council members to outside parties
- No Substitutes: Council members shall be appointed by the Minister and shall not be substituted unless determined by the Minister
- The Electricity Council may adopt operating procedures to govern its operations, including quorum, consensus building, and other administrative matters.
Conflict of Interest
- Recognizing that members of the Electricity Council originate from organizations involved in electricity sector utilities and regional institutions, it is important to employ rigorous conflict of interest rules and practices to safeguard the integrity of the Council and its advice to the Minister.
- To ensure the integrity of the Electricity Council’s independent advice, members will embrace full transparency of declaring interests related to any items under discussion by the Council and will recuse themselves from actively participating in discussions or providing advice where there is a real or perceived conflict.
- NRCan shall provide guidance to members with respect to best practices and guidelines of this matter, including means by which members will notify the Secretariat and the Chair of any changes in their affiliations and interests related to the Electricity Council’s mandate during their tenure.
- Guidance on conflict of interest will be provided to the Electricity Council, and may be periodically reviewed and adjusted to ensure the most objective advice is given.
Approach to Engagement
- In forming its advice the Electricity Council Chair may engage with:
- Federal departments and entities, particularly Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Provincial and Territorial governments
- Indigenous groups and governments
- Civil Society
- The Chair will make decisions on engagement in consultation with Council Members and may choose to delegate such engagement to Council members at his discretion.
- The Electricity Council could consider the formulation of sub-groups and membership thereof as a mechanism to include and elucidate the views of these diverse sets of stakeholders and rights-holders.
In keeping with the federal Official Languages Act, members of the Electricity Council have the right to receive documents and participate in discussions in the official language of their choice.
- In keeping with its policies on openness and transparency, NRCan may make public, information about the Electricity Council, its mandate, advice, or reports, as permitted or required by law and policy, including the Access to Information Act.
- NRCan will disclose any information required to comply with an audit ordered by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
Public communications about the Electricity Council and its work will be managed by NRCan, including media inquiries. Any Electricity Council-related media inquiries directed to Electricity Council members shall be redirected to the NRCan Electricity Council Secretariat.
Intellectual property rights arising from the Electricity Council’s work will rest in His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources.
Compensation and Expenses
- The members are entitled to be reimbursed, in accordance with relevant Treasury Board directives, for the time they dedicate to the Electricity Council, as well as expenses related to the travel, living and other expenses incurred in connection with their work for the Electricity Council while absent from their ordinary place of residence.
- To support this objective, Natural Resources Canada shall determine the appropriate procurement or staffing processes to formalize and reimburse the Electricity Council Chair and members for the time and expenses related to their work for the Electricity Council. In select circumstances and if preferred by Electricity Council members or the Chair, volunteer arrangements may be considered for the members’ dedicated time, while Natural Resources Canada will continue to compensate members for the expenses incurred due to travel or other Electricity Council business.
The Electricity Council shall make decisions on all substantive issues by consensus to the extent/where possible, which means:
- All members are willing to share relevant information and contribute to substantive discussions in good faith
- All members commit to focus on interests rather than positions, and are willing to explain their reasoning and intent when commenting on substantive issues
- Any member blocking the achievement of consensus is willing to explain their rationale, and is willing to work towards the identification of an alternative
- Consensus is achieved when all members can accept the proposed decision on a specific issue in the context of the full package of outcomes, with any dissenting opinions on a specific issue outlined in the Electricity Council’s final report
- All decisions on substantive issues are considered provisional until the full package of outcomes has been compiled and presented for consideration
- If, after genuine efforts by all members have been made, consensus cannot be achieved on a substantive issue, the matter at hand shall be resolved via majority vote. Any such vote will only occur at the direction of the Chair.
- Consensus can be achieved via in-person teleconference calls or meetings and/or through email.
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