Overview of Canada’s Legislative and Regulatory Systems and their Impact on Community Energy Planning
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The imperative for climate change planning in Canada to drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has compelled municipalities to develop and implement community energy plans. Today, more than 200 communities across Canada, representing over 50% of the population, have an energy plan. CEP is an increasingly popular strategy for municipalities to reduce GHG emissions, build resiliency, and create local economic benefits. Due to this significant uptake in CEP nationwide, it is important to understand the impact it is having on multi-level governance systems, as very little is known about the influence CEP has on regional-level institutional, infrastructural, and land use systems. Communities across Canada exist within an energy system that is interdependent in terms of infrastructure and regulatory regimes, so barriers can arise due to issues such as lack of capacity and experience. A divided and territorialised energy system that operates across different levels of government can impede community energy plan outcomes, at times unknowingly due to the lack of research literature on this topic. To help mitigate this problem, this paper identifies alignments, misalignments and gaps in the legislative and regulatory environment across jurisdictions to assist municipalities with better community energy plan development and implementation, and assist policymakers to enact legislation that supports CEP and embedded jurisdictional goals such as GHG targets. This major research paper begins with an overview of community energy planning theory and approaches to lay a foundation on which to build a more complex illustration of CEP in Canada, and more specifically Ontario and British Columbia. Common barriers to CEP are identified between the jurisdictions, including a lack of capacity and experience. A review of the jurisdictional regulatory and institutional structures related to ‘behind the meter’ programs, initiatives, and technologies is also included to provide a greater understanding of CEP enabling factors, including the net meter and smart meter programs. A series of policy and program options are included as recommendations for government to further support CEP goals and objectives, and as solutions to the misalignments, gaps and barriers identified throughout this research. Recommendations were crafted based on desk-top policy research and targeted interviews with key institutional and non-state actors, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in the CEP field.