Taking on the World
AER CEO says fledgling training institute “built by regulators for regulators”
It was 2013 and Jim Ellis was trying to stand up a new organization responsible for regulating some of the world’s largest oil and gas resources. It seemed that each day brought a new challenge.
“I knew we were breaking new ground and wanted to make sure we were going in the right direction,” the president and CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) says. “I should’ve been able to talk to a senior regulator, to hear someone say, ‘It’s OK Jim, you don’t need to worry about this, you’re going through huge change management right now but you’re on track.’”
“It’s nice to have that confirmation.”
But there was nowhere to go for that counsel. For Ellis, it was a trigger moment—one of many—that would eventually lead to the creation of the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, or ICORE.
Cofounded by the AER and Mexico’s Secretariat of Energy (SENER), ICORE is an independent, not-for-profit institute. Its mission is to enable regulators to exchange best practices, advance their collective body of knowledge, and train both emerging and established regulators from around the world.
“ICORE is not a consulting firm; it’s an institute built by regulators for regulators,” says Ellis. “When we speak, we speak regulator. When we say we’ve been there, it means something.”
When we speak, we speak regulator. When we say we’ve been there, it means something.
The idea for ICORE took root gradually and grew over time. In 2014, the AER launched an initiative to define regulatory excellence and identify the attributes of an excellent regulator. One of those attributes was deemed to be “stellar competence,” which in part meant ensuring that our staff had the knowledge they needed to do their jobs.
This spoke directly to training, as well as to being able to learn from the successes and failures of other regulators.
Others, like SENER and Mexican regulatory agencies, were increasingly seeking more help from the AER to strengthen their regulatory capabilities. But the AER is a regulator, not a trainer. That’s when it became clear that an organization was needed to fill this gap.
“This isn’t a nice-to-do. As the AER we need it because it just doesn’t exist,” says Ellis.
ICORE is very much an international entity with SENER as member and having an agreement with the Mexican university, Universidad Panamericanas, to provide training. But ICORE also has strong Alberta roots with the AER as founder and with recently signed agreements with the University of Alberta and SAIT to deliver training programs. Ellis notes that this will help enhance the province’s already strong international reputation as a leader in energy regulation.
Getting Their Attention
This reputation is helping to attract attention from regulators the world over. At the Global Petroleum Show held in Calgary last week, numerous countries continued to show strong interest in partnering with ICORE.
The institute’s vision is to establish an international presence, with one member country on each continent to act as the representative hub for that geographical region. For example, Mexico would be the innovation and training hub through which other countries from Central and South American could participate.
Ellis cautions that ICORE is still finding its legs, and much has to happen. The AER has seconded some staff to get it operational, but once it’s up and running the AER won’t be paying the bills. Funding will likely come from sources such as grants and eventually membership fees from partner organizations, in addition to fees for training and advising.
A strategic plan will be developed with performance metrics attached to it, and the organization will publish an annual report to give an account of its activities, finances, and future plans.
Ultimately, the AER stands to gain from learning the experience of its peers the world over, allowing it to become a stronger regulator able to do its job better. This, in turn, will benefit Alberta.
“If we think that we’re the best in everything we do, then we’d be wrong,” says Ellis. “We should always be striving to innovate, to find other people working in this space that have more experience in certain areas of the work.”