Renewable electricity politics across borders

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Combined heat and power solar installation on barn roof in Western Europe (By Stefan Thiesen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


It is now widely accepted that many of the systems for generating electricity in place worldwide are unsustainable. In spite of helping to create unprecedented levels of economic wealth, a predominant reliance upon large, centralized power stations, largely “fueled” by fossil fuels and uranium connected to a web of transmission and distribution lines, has a number of negative consequences as well. One of the most significant of those sustainability impacts is the effect that systems of electricity supply have on global climate change. With 66 percent of the world’s commercial electricity generated by fossil fuels in 2003 (including 40 percent of the total by coal), conventional methods to generate power are serving to increase carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere (and, though to a lesser extent, also serving to increase concentrations of other greenhouse gases). As such, a reconsideration of how electricity services are provided (and the extent to which they are needed, or might be provided by other, non-electrical, means) is critical. While an effective response to increasing energy sustainability consists of numerous different approaches—energy efficiency and conservation is also a key part of the overall strategy—it is widely agreed that the greater use of renewable resources in electricity supply should be part of the wider plans. This is not only to mitigate climate change specifically, but also to advance sustainability more generally.

This sentiment—that is, that increased use of renewable electricity should be a key part of broader climate change mitigation strategies and plans—has been expressed by a variety of international organizations and national governments. Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, devotes considerable attention to the ways in which the greater use of renewable electricity could serve to address climate change challenges. In particular, it is often argued that it is during the longer-term—that is, 20 or more years—that renewable electricity could play a large role, for it is recognized that many parts of the electricity system have a useful lifetime of 20, 30, 40 years or more.

As another example of the attention that renewable electricity is receiving in international fora, the leaders of the G8, in the 2005 Gleneagles Communiqué, declared that they “will promote the continued development and commercialization of renewable energy”. National governments have also done the same: the United Kingdom’s March 2006 Climate Change Programme, for example, had energy supply—with renewable energy resources through the country’s Renewables Obligation playing a key role—as the first of six chapters that, together, outline the key elements of the national plan.

Turning to the two countries under consideration in this article, namely, the United States and Canada, first consider the former: the White House maintained, in its Energy Policy Act of 2005, that it was promoting “the use of renewable energy sources ...”. And with respect to the latter, though the new federal government had not, as of June 2006, described how its “Made In Canada” approach to climate change might include support for renewable energy, the previous Canadian government saw renewable electricity as central, as evidenced by the role of both a wind power production incentive and a renewable power production incentive in the 2005 Action Plan on Climate Change.

The relative role of renewable resources in both the United States’ and Canada’s electricity supply systems is shown in Table 1. As will be explored further on in this article, the significance depends to a great extent upon how “renewable” is defined. What is clear following this table, however, is that the role of “new renewables” often focusing upon solar and wind, but also sometimes including low-emission (and sustainable) biomass and run-of-river hydropower, is extremely small.

Table 1: Electricity generation by source, Canada (2003) and the United States (2004)
  Coal Natural gas Other fossil fuels Nuclear Hydropower Other renewables Wood and other* Total generation (Gigawatt-hours)
Canada 18.6% 5.9% 2.8% 12.4% 59.0%   1.4% 567,383
United States 49.7% 17.8% 3.6% 19.8% 6.7%** 2.3%   3,970,555
* includes wood waste and spent pulping liquor, manufactured gases, other petroleum products, other fuels and station service.
** Conventional hydropower only.
Sources: EIA, 2005; Statistics Canada, 2004.




Against this background, this article seeks to investigate the cross-border (Canada-United States) issues that are arising and could arise with respect to desires to increase the use of renewable electricity.

To do this, this article is divided into five sections. Following this introduction, a brief review of Canada-U.S. electricity exchanges—and relations more generally, is presented. This helps to provide the context by outlining the ways in which the two countries already interact on power issues. In the third section, issues that have already arisen with respect to renewable electricity between the two countries are examined—here, the key point of contention has been with respect to the southward movement of electricity generated by large-scale hydropower facilities. This discussion leads into a subsequent exploration of additional issues that could arise between the two countries. The differing perspectives with respect to hydropower that already exist help us to anticipate further debates with regard to the way in which the definition of renewable or green could arise; issues related to cross-border investment, green procurement, subsidies and tradable certificates are also identified. Finally, the last section summarizes the argument, reiterates the potential significance of the subject and highlights some areas for further investigation.

Canada-U.S. Electricity Exchanges and Relations

caption Table 2: Electricity trade between Canada and the United States (>1,000 gigawatt-hours (GWhr) for 2005). Note: values are given in GWhr. (Source: National Energy Board, 2006.)

One might immediately wonder why an article is focusing upon electricity exchanges across an international border. After all, electricity, by its very nature economically unfeasible to store, physical (and economic) losses associated with its long-distance transmission appears to be a commodity that is largely contained within a local system. Little is usually made of the international trade in electricity compared to many other goods and services. Why then, should there be interest in cross-border exchanges between Canada and the United States?

It certainly is the case that traditionally in these two countries electricity has been predominantly a local concern. Relatively little of the electricity generated in either Canada or the United States is usually exported to the other country. Nevertheless, given the significant total value of the electricity supply industry in both Canada and the United States, this still represents a substantial figure in absolute terms—in 2005, it totaled C$5 billion. Table 2 highlights the largest exchanges of electricity that occurred between the two countries in 2005.

Indeed, it is important to recognize that there are a variety of institutional and physical links in terms of electricity between Canada and the United States. For one, governance of different parts of these countries’ (interconnected) power systems is already international. Indeed, the North American Electricity Reliability Council and its various committees (including the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, the Mid-Continent Area Power Pool, and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council) is perhaps most critical in this regard: formed in 1968 following a major power blackout that occurred in 1965, the Council is charged with ensuring that the bulk electric system in North America is reliable, adequate, and secure.

The August 14, 2003 blackout reminded us how closely these two countries’ electricity systems are physically linked. At that time, accidents and errors in the state of Ohio “cascaded” out of control, so that eventually both countries—an estimated 50 million people in eight states and the province of Ontario—were affected. With “51 electricity grid connections that cross the Canada-U.S. border”, electricity is, every minute of every day, a transnational issue.

Moreover, various organizations on both sides of the border are calling for greater international cooperation on energy issues, including electricity. The United States, for example, produced its “National Energy Policy” in March 2001. In that report, it was recommended in a broad and general sense that “a North American Energy Framework [be supported] to expand and accelerate cross-border energy investment, oil and gas pipelines, and electricity grid connections by streamlining and expediting permitting procedures with Mexico and Canada”.

Focusing explicitly upon electricity, the report also noted that international interconnections between Canada and the United States “provide important trade and clean air benefits, while allowing both countries to benefit from load sharing and integration. The reliability of the North American electricity grid can be enhanced yet further through closer coordination and compatible regulatory and jurisdictional approaches.” Recommendations for closer electricity ties both institutional and physical thus followed.

In a similar vein, the Canadian prime minister and the U.S. president (along with the Mexican president) agreed at the Summit of the Americas in Québec City (April 22, 2001) that their newly-created North American Energy Working Group “will be a valuable means of fostering communication and coordinating efforts in support of efficient North American energy markets...”. This group issued its report the following year. More recently (May 4, 2006), energy representatives from Canada, the United States, and Mexico met to discuss, among other things, “the expanded use of alternative energy sources among the three countries”. Thus, not only are there substantial connections in terms of electricity between Canada and the United States already in place, but some are calling for these links to be strengthened and replicated in order to advance efficiency and reliability goals. As such, the way in which the visibility and significance of cross-border issues related to renewable electricity could grow is evident.

Current Issues

Presently, the most contentious Canada-U.S. issue in the area of renewable electricity involves the appropriate role of hydropower in the pursuit of sustainable electricity goals. More specifically, there are disagreements regarding the role of large-scale hydropower. On the one hand, proponents of large-scale hydropower argue that it is a renewable resource, with low emissions. Hence, they continue, because it can contribute to a variety of clean air goals, it should not be “shut out” of any market where renewable electricity is being encouraged. On the other hand, opponents argue that large-scale hydropower has a number of challenges associated with it: environmental problems include habitat destruction and associated biodiversity loss, and social difficulties include the displacement of settlements. (For a review of many of these debates, see the report of the World Commission on Dams—an international group convened in 1998 in order to “review the development effectiveness of large dams and assess alternatives for water resources and energy development; and develop internationally accepted criteria, guidelines and standards, where appropriate, for the planning, design, appraisal, construction, operation, monitoring and decommission of dams”).

Moving from the general to the specific, debates have emerged between Hydro-Québec and those in the northeastern United States (markets in which Hydro-Québec is active) and Manitoba Hydro and Minnesota (similarly, a market in which Manitoba Hydro is active). In the case of the former, a number of states have explicitly excluded large-scale hydropower from their policy tools that serve to encourage increased use of renewable electricity. In Rhode Island, for example, only hydropower under 30 megawatts (MW) can qualify for its Renewable Portfolio Standard. For its part, Hydro-Québec has responded vigorously, advancing its case in state-level deliberations (for example, it intervened in New York State discussions about renewable policy options) and continental-level fora (for example, it prepared a submission to the NAFTA body investigating “Environmental Challenges and Opportunities of the Evolving North American Electricity Market”); the Québec government has similarly contributed to the debates, arguing that the development of its hydroelectric potential should, once again, be a top priority. Nevertheless, the use of large-scale hydropower continues to be opposed by many “on the ground” in this part of the United States.

In the case of the latter, a citizens’ group entitled “JustEnergy” (part of a larger organization, Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has been active in challenging the social and environmental attributes of electricity imports generated by large-scale hydropower in Manitoba. A representative sentence follows: “Because Manitoba Hydro doesn’t have to take into account the full environmental and human rights costs of its dam projects, its electricity is artificially cheap, and unfairly competes with truly renewable Minnesota energy sources, like wind”. For its part, Manitoba Hydro has responded vigorously, disputing, claim for claim, the accusations put forward by the group.

The debate has also played out between national governments. The Canadian federal government has continued to note its unease about the way in which hydropower was being defined in U.S. legislation. In 2003, for example, Canada expressed concern “over proposals in recent U.S. federal and state legislation to exclude Canadian-origin renewable-energy resources and hydroelectric power from U.S. renewable-energy programs. Canadian advocacy in this sector has raised U.S. awareness of a North American electricity market and the impact that discriminatory measures could have on this market. Canada continues to monitor developments in U.S. renewable energy standards”. That same year, the Canadian ambassador to the United States told U.S. legislators, “Canada notes the Senate proposal to mandate a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for electricity generation. All hydroelectricity, not just incremental hydroelectric generation, is renewable energy. Should an RPS emerge in your legislation, we would request that hydroelectricity not be disadvantaged. We wish to point out that given NAFTA and WTO obligations, any RPS must be non-discriminatory vis-à-vis Canadian and U.S. generated electricity”. In 2005, his successor took the same tack when he argued: “We should note that hydroelectricity is clearly a renewable energy. As it represents 57% of the electricity generated in Canada, there is no need for Canada to establish a five to ten percent renewable portfolio standard as many states in New England and elsewhere in the United States have done. … However, to Canada, hydro-generated electricity, whether produced or purchased, should count for any RPS.”

For its part, the United States government is continuing to develop its own federal policies that involve definitions of renewable electricity. Similarly, it appears supportive of those being developed at the state-level as well. In 2002, in response to NAFTA work on this issue, the assistant administrator of the U.S. EPA commented: “... the [NAFTA] report suggests that U.S. state renewable-energy programs may be viewed as possible barriers to international trade. … We have not encountered any trade disputes related to differing renewable-energy standards or definitions, and we see no indication of any trade barrier arising from differing definitions”. It remains, however, a point of debate between the two countries. Recent work by the Renewable Energy and International Law Project (an international collection of academics, lawyers, and others, whose work was catalyzed by the International Conference on Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany in June, 2004), and the ways in which connections between renewable electricity and global climate change are being made therein, effectively demonstrate that interest in this area continues.

Potential issues

As already suggested by the section above, there exist different views across North America with respect to how renewables (or, alternatively, green power or green energy) should be defined. Indeed, a 2003 report from the Commission on Environmental Cooperation—the international organization created by Canada, Mexico, and the United States under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which was, in turn, a product of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations—revealed a variety of perspectives across the continent. While there was broad support for solar energy (thermal or photovoltaic) and wind, others such as biomass and hydropower received more varied reactions. Recently, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy identified 299 different rules, regulations and policies for renewable energy in the United States alone. Continuing developments regarding renewable electricity policy in Canada lend further support to this observation. Moreover, many of these laws and policies have an explicit link to climate change.

Internationally, national laws involving renewable energy may impact international trade. If a country offers legislation that specifically benefits renewable forms of electricity, some might argue that this constitutes an unjustifiable trade barrier and demand similar treatment for (non-renewable) forms of electricity. That argument, however, has been challenged by others who argue that non-renewable and renewable electricity are different types of goods. In considering ‘physical characteristics’ in the context of determining whether renewable energy is like or unlike non-renewable energy, a WTO adjudicator would almost necessarily be required to consider the physical nature of a process.” Recent WTO case decisions such as the Turtle/Shrimp, EC-Asbestos and Japan-Alcohol cases have considered the production and process methods behind the good itself, which might support the argument that renewable electricity is different.

Does the discussion change when we restrict attention to renewable electricity itself, and consider different kinds within this more restricted subset? As noted above, there is already such a discussion surrounding hydropower (large-scale versus low-impact, for example). Additionally, there are debates regarding whether restrictions should be based upon the geographical location of facilities that generate renewable electricity (particularly whether they are inside or outside of the particular jurisdiction enacting the legislation) or based upon the age of these facilities (with some programs favoring new renewables, with new defined differently in different places). Some RPS programs currently in place in the United States limit renewable electricity on the basis of one or both of these characteristics. Some have problems with this, for they maintain that the RPS policy has little to do with the environmental goals that may be laid out in the preamble of the relevant piece of legislation, but instead is about protecting and/or developing local industries.

In these cases, it would seem that the particular goal of the legislation and the extent to which the goal is defensible would be key. If the aim of the renewable electricity legislation is to meet the challenges of global climate change, then it might be that even nuclear power could be included certainly the location of the generating facility would not seem to matter. Alternatively, if the aim is about local air quality, then the proximity of the generators would seem to be particularly important. In cases such as this, the goal of the legislation and how the legislation could potentially be protected by General Exceptions in international trade law (GATT’s Article XX and NAFTA’s Article 2101) would be critical.

In a similar vein, investment disputes could also lead to cross-border discussions and/or conflicts. It is possible that certain provisions of NAFTA’s Chapter 11 (the investment chapter) could apply even in the absence of “true deprivations of property” (that is, one’s traditional view of corporate expropriation by host governments “nationalizing” foreign companies and taking over their assets). Instead, there might need to be “compensation for any government action which has a significant impact on the profit-making ability of an investment”. Horlick and colleagues go on to argue that: “If the approach set out there [in the Metalclad case] is maintained, then any post-investment environmental measure applied in the electricity generation and distribution sectors that impact on the profitability of a foreign investor will require compensation to be paid.”

An example of such a challenge, involving renewable electricity in Canada and the United States, can be envisaged. Consider fictional jurisdiction A. Its government had traditionally taken a “laissez-faire” attitude towards renewable electricity. As a result, a company from jurisdiction B sets up a landfill gas recovery-to-electricity unit in jurisdiction A, and markets the resulting power using green power language and images. Further imagine that the leadership in jurisdiction A then has a change of heart, and decides to actively advance renewable electricity by introducing its own support scheme (rather than having the default national one that is the emerging norm as developed by industry’s practices be the only one in existence). Legislators there decide to introduce an RPS. Following the results of local polling, these legislators decide that “renewable” consists exclusively of solar and wind. As a result, the company from jurisdiction B can no longer market its biomass-sourced electricity as a premium (environmental) product. That company’s officials may then argue that because biomass is just as renewable as the privileged sources (solar and wind), the legislation is unfair. They then proceed to argue that the introduction of the RPS amounts to “de facto expropriation of assets” and they demand compensation for lost revenues. Although it is hard to anticipate the outcome of such a case, it is certainly reasonable to state that the case put forward by the company from jurisdiction B could be viewed sympathetically by a NAFTA panel.

Staying with the point about varying definitions of renewable energy (or green power, or whatever term is being used), issues related to government procurement have the potential to become prominent. The government purchase of a green product in a systematic manner has been a relatively popular form of encouraging uptake of renewable electricity to encourage “learning by doing” and to stimulate the market for these kinds of electricity. Key examples include Natural Resources Canada, which began purchasing green power for some of its facilities in 1997.

In North America, green procurement is affected by the terms of NAFTA’s Chapter 10, which applies to listed federal government entities and enterprises of NAFTA Parties. It obliges relevant bodies to follow particular rules, to ensure transparency and to adhere to a “national treatment” obligation. Given that last point, there is—as we have seen above—the potential to generate conflict, for opponents could argue that the electrons are providing government services (lighting, heat, ventilation, etc.) and that it does not matter how they were created. This would, again, as we have seen above, open discussion related to the production and process methods of electricity generation. Perhaps more significantly, were any such program to favor “in-jurisdiction” green power, then a challenge on “national treatment” grounds might achieve greater traction. Reviewing the Pennsylvania “Request for Quote for Electric Generation Attributes,” it is interesting to note the following passage: “Attributes of the generation sources that are of interest include: the generating technology utilized, the generating capacity, the age of the source, and the location of the generating source”. Thus, challenges are certainly conceivable.

Another area where politics across the border could arise is with respect to subsidies. Generally, the global trade and investment regime frowns upon subsidies. Historically, however, subsidies have been central to energy activities, with fossil fuels and nuclear power, in particular, receiving millions of dollars in support in many countries, Canada and the United States included. While challenges to these subsidies, in order to promote the increased use of renewable energy, could conceivably arise, the well-entrenched (and universal) nature of these subsidies may mean that they do not attract such attention. Instead, subsidies (or, at least, claimed subsidies) to encourage renewable electricity may be the ones that come under scrutiny.

In Europe, there is an oft-cited debate about “prices versus quantities” with respect to supporting renewable electricity. In other words, should there be explicit prices for renewable electricity with the market determining the quantity provided or explicit quantities for renewable electricity with the market determining the price. While North America has conventionally favored the latter (usually in the form of a renewable portfolio standard), Europe has been much more eclectic in its approach, with both attracting attention. Relevant to the issue in this article, however, is the fact that this European trend appears to be moving to North America. In March 2006, some observers claimed that Ontario took the lead with respect to an approach representative of the former feed-in tariffs (or what is increasingly being called “standard offer contracts” in North America). At that time, the Government announced that “the Ontario Power Authority will purchase electricity produced by wind, biomass or small hydroelectric at a base price of 11 [Canadian] cents per kilowatt-hour. The fixed price for solar will be 42 [Canadian] cents per kilowatt-hour”. Other jurisdictions in North America seem set to follow suit.

A key precedent for determining the relationship between a feed-in tariff and international economic law comes from Germany in the PreussenElektra versus Schleswag case. In this instance, PreussenElektra, one of Germany’s electricity suppliers, complained that it was paying too much for renewable electricity under the German feed-in tariff law, which requires suppliers to purchase renewable electricity within their area of supply at a set (premium) price. PreussenElektra maintained that the law violated European rules on subsidies, because it was in effect state aid. The European Court, however, disagreed and declared that this was not problematic because it did not constitute aid granted directly or indirectly through state resources. Instead, it was the private grid operators that were obliged to make the payments. This last point appears to be particularly consequential. Turning to this side of the Atlantic Ocean, while the details in the case of Ontario have yet to be worked out by the Ontario Power Authority, it is generally expected that the payments will be made by the government. Therefore, will it be able to seek the same kind of protection that sheltered Germany’s feed-in tariff law? Moreover, it will also be interesting to see the details with respect to how would it be handled if someone in Buffalo, N.Y., put solar panels on their roof, and arranged for the electricity to be submitted to the Ontario grid, and demanded payment for it. How would the Ontario government react?

Finally, the emerging market for renewable-electricity certificates that is, for the environmental benefits of generating renewable electricity (often arising from the displacement of conventional, carbon-based electricity generation), as distinct from the electrons themselves poses another interesting issue for investigation. In different schemes around North America (and, indeed, around the world, with the European Union’s carbon trading system representing the most ambitious such undertaking, globally), systems of tradable emission credits have been established as a means to address environmental concerns. Renewable-electricity certificates are closely related.

Worth noting here, with respect to the way in which the international trade of renewable-electricity certificates might stimulate discussion, is that they may be interpreted as financial services instead of electricity as a good, and may, therefore, point to different legal regimes in particular, the General Agreement on Trade in Services rather than the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Additionally, we should further recognize that the use of renewable electricity in place of fossil-powered electricity can serve to meet environmental challenges at a variety of different scales: reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides ameliorate smog challenges; fewer sulfur emissions lessen acid precipitation and lower carbon dioxide emissions serve to mitigate global climate change. Therefore, there might be a range of legislative obligations to which the act of encouraging renewable electricity is contributing; the fact that airsheds are often international simply adds another layer of complexity to this.

Summary, conclusions, and recommendations

The purpose of this article has been to examine the cross-border (Canada-United States) issues that are arising and could arise with respect to desires to increase the use of renewable electricity. Our review suggests that there are many more issues that could arise than those that are currently part of the political agenda, which is now dominated by the debate about large-scale hydropower.

Of course, these debates could also interact with climate change politics to a greater extent. Both Canada and the United States use carbon-intensive resources to generate their electricity at least in part, and to varying extents (see Table 1). Therefore, as efforts to develop climate change mitigation policies and programs continue at national and sub-national levels, development of renewable electricity sources will no doubt continue to be part of the discussions. This article has already suggested the links between the two: an additional example includes the work of the New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers, where they see the promotion of renewable energy being part of their climate change goals. As such, the ways in which the kinds of potential debates could arise will, at least in part, be linked to the development of climate change developments both within Canada and the United States, as well as between the two countries.

The potential for international cooperation to assist the sustainable development of renewable energy is great. As such, it is important to anticipate and respond to disputes that could arise between countries, Canada and the United States included, as different players pursue the establishment of sustainable energy systems. However, a key challenge related to this issue is that both renewable electricity and global climate change are investigated by multiple organizations (and institutions) in many fora working at numerous levels. Indeed, given how energy and climate change issues permeate virtually every aspect of our modern society, this is not particularly surprising. Locally, there is increased attention to the way in which cities and other municipalities could be catalysts for a movement towards a new energy paradigm and a carbon-free future; similar discussions occur at the province- or state-level. Nationally, countries have traditionally played a key role, particularly when international obligations are involved. Finally, as has been revealed through the investigation of Canada-U.S. relations in this article, the ways in which international bodies respond will also be pivotal. As such, while the links between energy issues particularly efforts to increase the use of renewable electricity, and climate change issues particularly mitigation plans, are evident, many challenges remain to be resolved and many opportunities are yet to be fully exploited.

caption Different renewable energy systems from the continent of North America. A-C. Hydro; D. Solar ; E-F. Air; G. Geothermal Source: Saikat Basu, own work


  1. Electricity generation accounts for 2,100 MtC/yr (megatonnes carbon per year) or 37.5 percent of global carbon emissions (IPCC, 2001).
  2. The figures for the individual countries are as follows: In 2003, 5.2 percent of the electricity generated in Canada was exported to the United States, while, in 2004, 0.6 percent of the electricity generated in the United States was exported to Canada.
  3. For more information about the blackout, see U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force (2003).
  4. For related discussion regarding the potential benefits of cross-border (and NAFTA) cooperation on these issues, see Betsill, this volume.
  5. Unless otherwise noted, information about specific renewable electricity policies in the United States is taken from the “Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy”.
  6. One example comes from Vermont, which has a soon-to-expire long-term contract with Hydro-Québec. Some groups are using the debate surrounding the desirability of renewing the contract as an opportunity to encourage state-developed wind power (and other renewables) in its place. (See, for example, the campaigns of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG, 2006).) Of course, during the debates regarding the construction of new facilities in the 1980s and early 1990s, there was also extensive opposition (often with interesting transnational links between U.S. activist organizations and Canadian First Nations groups) (McRae, 2004).
  7. Similar sentiments have been voiced by the Minnesota Environmental Action Network.
  8. Put another way: “... energy is inherently dynamic—it is a process of transformation. The product is the process” (Howse, 2005).
  9. These two paragraphs build upon Rowlands (forthcoming).
  10. In the Metalclad case, a U.S. waste management company challenged “decisions by Mexican local government to refuse it a permit to operate a hazardous waste landfill … and by state government to create an ecological preserve in the area” (CCPA (2004)). A NAFTA tribunal found in favor of the U.S. company, following Chapter 11 of the NAFTA.
  11. What makes the potential Chapter 11 challenge all the more intriguing is that it would not need to be instituted by (or even supported by) the government in jurisdiction B; private companies have standing in such cases under NAFTA.
  12. International lawyer Barry Appleton reviewed Ontario’s Renewables “Request for Proposals” (a mechanism whereby it was seeking “bids” for longterm supplies of renewable electricity) for the Society of Professional Engineers. He argued that, by stipulating that generation had to be in Ontario, the province was setting itself up for an international trade challenge (Spears, 2005).
  13. The differences in the definition of green power could affect international relations not only with respect to the kind of resource used to generate the electricity, but also with respect to the standards that apply to the manufacture and/or use of renewable energy technology. For example, one jurisdiction might prohibit the use of hazardous products in photovoltaic cells, or it might have particular levels of noise performance for wind turbines. The debate with respect to differences in definition could also manifest itself in discussions about labeling. This might not only include differing perspectives with respect to what qualifies as green power, but also whether goods made with green power could qualify for an environmental label or not.
  14. Paul Gipe (2006) identifies California, Washington, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as being in the forefront in this regard.

caption Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading



Rowlands, I. (2014). Renewable electricity politics across borders. Retrieved from


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