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Policy Risk and Private Investment in Ontario’s Wind Power Sector


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  • Holburn, Guy L. F.
  • Lui, Kerri
  • Morand, Charles
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    Even though governments may adopt favourable regulatory policies for renewable power generation, their ability to encourage private sector investment depends also on the presence of regulatory governance institutions that provide credible long-term commitments to potential investors. In the case of Ontario we contend that, despite large market potential and comparatively strong regulatory incentive policies, weak regulatory governance is one factor that has accounted for the challenges in attracting and implementing large scale private investment in power generation at a reasonable cost. We find empirical support for our arguments in a unique survey of 63 wind power firms that assessed private sector opinions about the investment environment for renewable energy in Ontario. Compared to a range of factors, firms rated the stability of regulatory policy among the weakest aspects of Ontario?s business environment. However, policy stability ranked among the most important factors in firms? assessments of the attractiveness of alternative jurisdictions in their location decisions. Subsequent interviews revealed that firms have responded to this risk in Ontario by explicitly pricing it into wind project financial models – implying higher wind power prices for ratepayers – and by directing investment funds to other jurisdictions. We argue that policy stability in Ontario may be improved by devolving greater decision-making authority to regulatory agencies in the energy sector and by strengthening their institutional independence.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Regulation2point0 in its series Working paper with number 596.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:reg:wpaper:596

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    1. Langniss, Ole & Wiser, Ryan, 2003. "The renewables portfolio standard in Texas: an early assessment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 527-535, May.
    2. Jacobsson, Staffan & Lauber, Volkmar, 2006. "The politics and policy of energy system transformation--explaining the German diffusion of renewable energy technology," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 256-276, February.
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