Greater integration among regional power grids would lower electric sector emissions and power costs across eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, but coordination today is limited. A new report by an international team, led by RAP in collaboration with The Transition Accelerator and Raab Associates, reveals that key stakeholders on both sides of the border understand the value of deeper regional coordination and would support an ambitious initiative to develop planning tools, investments and market rules to unlock the benefits of larger grid balancing areas.

Eight separately operated balancing areas make up the eastern Canadian and northeastern U.S. electric grid. The provinces and states that these balancing areas serve have set ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for themselves. Meeting them, say system operators, regulators and other stakeholders, will be easier and less expensive if there is greater coordination among grids. Numerous studies have demonstrated this and shown the other substantial economic and environmental benefits that integrated grid planning, operations and investment can have.

But it hasn’t happened. Why not and what can be done to make it happen are important questions to answer in order to make meaningful progress on regional decarbonization. RAP, The Transition Accelerator — a Montreal-based nongovernmental organization — and Raab Associates interviewed key policymakers and stakeholders in eastern Canada, New York and New England to ask these questions and to evaluate the extent and nature of interest in pursuing deeper coordination of the regional electrical systems. The researchers investigated where joint action might offer the most promise and best return for the broad set of affected institutions and stakeholders on both sides of the border.

Our purpose was not to analyze the value or means for such coordination. Rather, it was to determine whether there is sufficient institutional and key stakeholder support for an extended multistakeholder, multijurisdictional collaborative process dedicated to developing a comprehensive blueprint for greater coordination and grid integration.

The support we found for such an initiative was strong and shared widely on both sides of the border. This report describes how officials and market participants see the opportunities and value of greater regional grid integration. It looks at the range of possibilities and the challenges and offers a detailed set of recommendations for initiating and conducting a collaborative among the jurisdictions and stakeholders to create a blueprint for electric system integration for economywide decarbonization.

The report is also available from The Transition Accelerator.