Closed Borders and Shared Grids

Virtual reality has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. In-person meetings have been halted and the integration of online communication tools has spiked. As an essential service, pausing the delivery of electricity was not an option.

At a recent virtual meeting of the North American Electricity Corporation (NERC) – the organization that sets the electricity industry standards that help keep the grid reliable, CEA’s President and CEO, Francis Bradley, said,

“While the Canada-U.S. border, and many others, have remained closed throughout the pandemic, reliable electricity has continued to flow, and the relationships that have made our shared grid reliable and resilient have remained strong.” 

This statement has never been more important.

Canadians and Americans share a highly integrated electricity grid and a robust electricity trade relationship, enabled by over 35 cross-border electricity transmission lines. And this trade and integration is great for both Canadians and Americans alike.

This grid ensures reliable, resilient and sustainable electricity to power Canadian and American homes and businesses, and all other critical infrastructure, like hospitals and communications technology that help keep us safe, connected and healthy. Throughout the pandemic, electricity has kept our front-line medical heroes working, has powered countless Zoom meetings, virtual classrooms and has connected families and friends from across the globe through video chats.

The cross-border electricity relationship is also leading to a cleaner and more resilient grid. Sustainable, reliable Canadian electricity, such as hydropower, which encompasses 60% of Canada’s electricity generation, can be paired with variable wind and solar resources in the U.S., for example. This pairing can help ensure more reliable operations and clean energy efficiencies on both sides of the border.

Overall, this trade and integration forms the backbone of a highly positive and mutually beneficial electricity relationship between Canada and the U.S.

Because we are integrated, the Canadian and American electricity community cooperate on everything from grid reliability through forums such as NERC, to adapting to new technologies to help customers, to keeping the grid protected from ever evolving cyber and physical threats through forums such as the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC).

We also help each other out in times of need. Canadian and American companies often participate in cross-border mutual assistance, helping each other restore power to customers more quickly and safely in the aftermath of major storms, wildfires and other disasters.

Thanks to these relationships, we have more people working together on the complex challenges and opportunities brought about by advancing technologies, climate change, extreme weather events, new security threats, and the imperative to keep delivering even more safe, more sustainable and more secure electricity to customers.

This tradition of cross-border cooperation has served the Canadian and U.S. electricity sector, and the customers they serve, well during COVID-19. I have often said that I have been impressed, but not at all surprised, by how the electricity community in Canada and the U.S. came together to take on the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Though in-person meetings were made impossible due to the pandemic, cooperation did not stop. The Canadian and American electricity sector has been working together to meet the challenges of the pandemic through countless calls of the ESCC, information sharing on best practices and creative problem-solving, regulators’ supporting efforts, and dedicated work by governments on both sides of the border. In some cases, we have found even better ways to do things.

Overall, we have become pretty accustomed to living with uncertainty over the last few months, which likely we can all admit is stressful. That said, one thing which we can count on during these uncertain times is the enduring Canada-U.S electricity relationship, and the commitment by the electricity community on both sides of the border to provide an essential service to the customers they serve, and to keep people safe.