On Thursday, October 21, 2010, Pace Law School hosted what was intended to be a unique and engaging panel discussion on U.S.-Canadian cross-border energy policy. Much of the discussion, however, went beyond the U.S.-Canada framework, often focusing on global energy issues and general energy policy topics. The panel discussion, a joint venture between the Pace Energy and Climate Center, the Consulate General of Canada, and the Quebec Government office, was moderated by The New York Times “Dot Earth” blog author, Andrew Revkin, and featured Jatin Nathwani, Executive Director for the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Waterloo, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Associate Professor in Management Sciences at HEC Montréal, Nicholas Robinson, Co-Director of Pace University’s Center for Environmental Legal Studies, and James Van Nostrand, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center.
The discussion opened with brief statements from each of the panelists. Pierre-Olivier Pineau opened by stressing the importance of looking across jurisdictional lines to achieve optimal allocation of energy resources. “If you can get cheaper hydro[electric] power from Canada, then why build wind farms in New York?” Pineau also stressed the regulatory benefits of a cross-border energy purchasing scheme, pointing out that if Quebec were to export hydroelectric power to New York, then New York, from a power production perspective, would be emitting zero greenhouse gases. However, Pineau was quick to point out the lack of a system designed to give New York any credit for this mitigation of green house gas emission achieved by procuring energy from a foreign source. He continued to stress the importance of a policy innovation, such as a greenhouse gas credit, that would help New York consumers to save money, while simultaneously developing a new market for Canadian power producers. His main point: “policy innovation is just as important as technological innovation.”
In his remarks, Professor James Van Nostrand expressed agreement with Pineau, stressing that New York ratepayers are currently paying surcharges on their bills so the state can procure enough renewable sources to satisfy the renewable portfolio standard by 2015. Van Nostrand emphasized the need for a policy structure allowing New York to procure cheap hydroelectric power from Canada. He described the great economic benefit that would trickle down to New York ratepayers if a cross-border energy procurement program was in place.
Jatin Nathwani delivered more of a macro perspective to the energy panel, focusing mainly on global energy issues. He stated that in 2050, world population would grow to over 9 billion people, and that at the status quo, 3 billion of those people – those mired in extreme poverty – would still lack access to electricity. Nathwani provided staggering figures to illustrate the daunting task of mitigating carbon emissions in order to counteract global warming in the face of a rapidly growing population. He stressed the importance of innovation to drive down the cost of renewable energy systems – a key step in the path to controlling global emissions levels.
Professor Nicholas Robinson emphasized the importance of legal tools – namely treaties and compacts – in forming energy procurement agreements between nations and across state lines. He also advocated for the execution of joint impact assessments and comprehensive electricity cost assessments that would help governments to make better educated energy policy decisions.
The panel discussion touched upon various energy industry topics, including the inefficiencies created by load losses during electricity transmission, self-sustaining microgrids for third-world countries, the cost-inefficiency of nuclear power, the U.S. Department of Defense’s new “green” energy procurement policy, and the maximization of existing energy technologies, such as hydropower.