Pressure to open power market grows

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To the delight of renewable energy proponents, the pressure on Canadian utilities to open their grids to US electricity marketers became even more acute in January after BC Hydro's export arm, Powerex, was refused a marketing licence by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC ruled that the British Columbia public utility did not meet commission requirements for reciprocity and comparability. As one trade newsletter interpreted FERC's stance, if Canadian utilities want access to US markets, "they had better give US competitors access to Canadian markets." The Powerex decision could force Canada's utilities to end their monopolies, separate their transmission systems into distinct companies, and allow Canadian renewable proponents and other independents to wheel their power throughout Canada and into the US. Lack of grid access is so far seen as a major market impediment to renewable projects looking to the green pricing market in both countries. FERC licences are necessary for Canadian utilities to continue their lucrative sales to the US in a deregulated market. Applications to the FERC for power marketer licences by Canada's big three -- B. Hydro, Ontario Hydro and Hydro Quebec -- all propose limited wheeling for competitors, but seek to keep their monopolies intact, in violation of FERC's principles. They could well see their applications refused.

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