US open access bid could force competition in Canada

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America's historic bid to open up its electricity transmission lines to free wholesale trading may help pry open the Canadian electrical sector to full competition -- and increase public demand for green electricity. Although Canadian utilities are protesting that the US requirement for open access "reciprocity" from Canada and Mexico is unfair, they nonetheless appear to be receiving the message that competition is coming their way. William Farlinger, chair of Ontario Hydro, North America's largest electric utility, said in early June: "There is a sense of urgency for Ontario to act in light of the recent ruling by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission." For wind the ruling is significant as it could improve the market throughout North America. FERC Commissioner James Hoecker said recently: "Open access enhances the prospects for environmental dispatch on a regional basis. It gives isolated renewable plants, particularly hydroelectric and wind power units that are tied to specific geographical features, better market access. Investments in demand-side management and renewable resources, which offer relatively stable costs, may be an attractive component of utilities' generation portfolios because they also minimise risks. And, as restructuring makes electricity a more customer-driven business, the public's documented preference for environmentally benign power will take on more significance."

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