Power Switch: Energy Regulatory Governance in the Twenty-First Century


240 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3753-4
DDC 333.79'0971




Reviewed by Richard G. Kuhn

Richard G. Kuhn is an associate professor of geography at the University
of Guelph.


Bruce Doern has authored or co-authored numerous books on Canadian
energy policy that have provided excellent summaries and analyses of the
evolution of one of Canada’s most important industries. Power Switch
continues this tradition by focusing on the changing regulatory
framework for energy in the past 20 years. The title of the book is
invoked early to denote the double meaning of the word power: the
generation of physical energy; and political power and the relative
ascendancy and decline of institutions and interests involved in the
development, regulation, and management of energy at the provincial,
national, and international levels. The aim of the book is to examine
how and explain why the regulatory governance of energy in Canada has
changed in the last two decades and to uncover the critical challenges
facing energy regulatory governance. The authors succeed admirably.

Their analysis focuses on four key themes: (i) energy regulation has
changed in the past two decades to become “less regulation but more
rules”; (ii) while energy regulatory governance has been moving in a
pro-competition direction, the system is still one of managed
competition; (iii) regulatory “stacking” is a major feature of
energy–environment regulation; and (iv), due to the nature of
political accountability, energy is regulated not just by particular
regulators but by complex regimes of regulation.

The authors employ a framework that focuses on the sectoral and
horizontal regulatory regimes in Canada. The former refers to national
and provincial regulatory bodies (e.g., the National Energy Board, the
Ontario Energy Board, and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board),
regulated companies, and various consumer groups. Horizontal regimes
include those regulatory bodies charged with managing the environment
(e.g., federal and provincial environment departments) and those charged
with competition (e.g., the Competition Bureau, trade regulators).
Through the use of this framework, a variety of topics are addressed,
including the influences exerted on Canadian policy through the U.S.
regulatory models, the changing roles of the National Energy Board and
its Ontario and Alberta counterparts, and federal environmental and
competition regulations.

It is a tribute to the authors that they are able to infuse this book,
for the most part, with a sense of clarity. Indeed, the topic itself is
daunting, complex, and fraught with nuance.


Doern, G. Bruce, and Monica Gattinger., “Power Switch: Energy Regulatory Governance in the Twenty-First Century,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/18223.