Dec. 6, 2021

Researcher explores net zero electricity grid, social license in energy projects

Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos' research examines a variety of areas within the realm of energy law and regulation.
Rows of transmissions lines at sunset
Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos continues to advance her research on the local impacts of energy projects, transitioning to a low carbon economy, and electricity planning.  

She has an article forthcoming in Osgoode Hall Law Journal exploring the drive towards a net zero electricity system.  

According to van de Biezenbos, Canada is currently experiencing an electricity crisis resulting from divided provincial systems and a lack of interprovincial transmission lines. This has caused a division of the country into renewable have- and have-not provinces, a deterrent to private investment in renewable energy projects, and an on-going reliance on fossil fuels for power in parts of the country. All these factors have combined to create a difficult situation for Canada to meet its Paris Agreement commitments and to achieve the national target of Net Zero by 2050. 

Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos

Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos

In her article “Lost in Transmission: A Constitutional Approach to Achieving a Nationwide Net Zero Electricity System,” van de Biezenbos argues that the first step in addressing these issues is to create a new market for interprovincial zero-emission power sales by exercising federal jurisdiction over the permitting of interprovincial transmission lines (which currently reside in provincial jurisdiction). This will encourage private companies to enter the market, thus removing some of the financial burden of building and maintaining the grid from the provinces. The article explores the Constitutional basis for federal jurisdiction over interprovincial power lines, as well as the Constitutional limits that will keep provincial grids under provincial control. 

In “When Social Licence and Sovereignty Collide on First Nations Land in Canada,” Professor van de Biezenbos explores the inability of social license and the process of obtaining it to address longstanding issues between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments. The chapter, forthcoming in the open-access Palgrave Handbook on Social License to Operate and Energy Transitions, examines the failure of social license in the ongoing resistance of the Unist’ot’en band of the Wet’su’wetan First Nation to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project, and considers whether, in some cases, the existence of social license and the concept of community buy-in may have allowed Canadian governments to avoid reckoning with its own failures with respect to Indigenous people.