Author: Marla Orenstein

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Innovation and technological development are racing ahead in Canada’s energy sector. But despite the potential benefits to business and society, innovative technology is often not adopted. Why not? The simple answer is that innovation often carries too much risk – financial, technical, market, and – not least of all – regulatory. This can result in “a race to be second,” where companies jockey to be second in line to adopt an innovation, reaping the benefits relatively early while devolving the costs, risks and timeline onto the first adopter.

The Canada West Foundation is undertaking a series of research and convening activities, Getting to ‘Go’: Removing regulatory barriers to energy innovation, to address key questions in the context of energy innovation:

> What are the basic goals of regulation? Going back to first principles, we need to revamp our understanding of our regulations and their purpose. We regulate products and services in the public interest, but to what end? Health? Safety? Security? The efficient functioning of markets?

> How do we ensure responsible outcomes without stifling the adoption of innovations necessary to achieve our environmental, economic and social goals? What are the barriers and opportunities in our regulatory process and culture for the adoption of innovations? Can we square both a prevention and promotion mindset?

> Who does it best elsewhere, and how? What is being done in other jurisdictions and even other sectors that can be applied to reduce the regulatory barriers to energy innovation adoption?

The goal of this series is to make recommendations for a regulatory environment that:

> accomplishes its key public interest goals;

> does so cost effectively and in a timely fashion;

> is nimble, adaptable, technology agnostic; and

> has the culture and resources to support ongoing adoption of innovations.

On January 30, 2019, approximately 30 people gathered in Calgary to participate in a one-day “Hon. James A. Richardson Discovery Roundtable” workshop on the regulatory environment for innovation in the energy sector. The workshop, hosted jointly by the Canada West Foundation and the Energy Futures Lab, brought together participants from provincial regulators in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, small innovative companies, large energy incumbents, business accelerators and others. The purpose was to enable participants to engage in frank and solution-focused discussions on the ways in which the regulatory environment can inhibit or incentivize technological innovation in the energy sector.

This report presents a summary of the thoughts and ideas brought forward by the participants to address this problem. This report comprises preliminary information that will be used to inform the Canada West Foundation’s forthcoming work on this topic. Our full report will be forthcoming later in 2019.