Renewable energy in Canada

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Renewable energy is an important source of energy in Canada, as the country generates the majority of its electricity from hydroelectric dams (59% in 2006). Wind power is growing quickly, with Canada in 2011 being the 6th largest producer of wind power in the world.[1] Canada has built a number of photovoltaic power plants, mainly in Ontario, with one in Sarnia being the largest in the world at the time of construction. A 15 megawatt tidal plant sits at Annapolis, Nova Scotia, and uses the daily tides of the Bay of Fundy. Politicians have expressed interest in increasing the percentage of Canada's electricity generated by renewable methods. Ontario has created a subsidy to assist wind and solar power producers.



Canada has about 75 GW of installed hydroelectric capacity, producing 392 TWh of electricity in 2013.[2] Manitoba, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Quebec produce over 90% of their power from hydroelectricity. Quebec generates half of Canada's hydroelectric power.

Population, area, water resources, and GDP for selected countries[3]
Population Area Renewable freshwater resources Total water withdrawal Gross Domestic Product Gross Domestic Product per capita
Volume Volume per capita Volume per unit area
thousands km2 km3 per year global rank m3 per capita m3 per m2 km3 per year millions of $ U.S. (current prices) $ U.S. per capita
Brazil 188,158 8,514,880 8,233 1 43,756 0.967 59.3 1,089,398 5,790
India 1,147,746 3,287,260 1,892 9 1,648 0.576 645.9 911,376 794
France 63,236 549,190 204 43 3,226 0.371 40.0 2,266,137 35,836
Canada 32,628 9,978,904 3,472 3 1109,837 0.348 42.0 1,278,682 39,189
United States 305,697 9,632,030 3,051 4 9,980 0.317 473.6 13,116,500 42,907
China 1,297,847 9,598,090 2,830 6 2,181 0.295 630.4 2,779,871 2,142
Russian Federation 142,530 17,098,240 4,508 2 31,628 0.264 66.2 989,428 6,942
Mexico 106,411 1,964,380 457 25 4,295 0.233 78.2 945,644 8,887
Australia 20,628 7,741,220 492 21 23,851 0.064 23.9 787,418 38,172
South Africa 48,639 1,219,090 50 95 1,028 0.041 12.5 257,728 5,299

Canada, in 2014, had 542 hydroelectric stations with an installed capacity of 78,359 megawatts.[4] Hydroelectricity has developed in Canada where geography and hydrography has permitted, particularly in Quebec. However, sustainable hydro-power projects need to be planned carefully, if not, environmental and social negative externalities will persist.[5] Some examples of this include: stagnation of water, fish migration issues, uprooting of communities, and habitat loss for species and the possibility of extinction for specific species.[6]

Installed hydroelectric capacity by province/territories in 2014[4]
province/territory installed capacity (MW)
British Columbia 14,210
Alberta 943
Saskatchewan 868
Manitoba 5,000 (or greater. approx.)
Ontario 10,000 (approx.)
Quebec 40,000 (approx.)
New-Brunswick 950 (approx.)
Nova Scotia 376 (approx.)
Newfoundland & Labrador 6,800
Yukon 95
Northwest Territories 56

Solar power

Southern Canada has plentiful solar energy resources, with the most extensive resources being found in southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.[7][8]

With 1210 MWp of installed photovoltaics in 2013, Canada ranked 15th among the world's countries.[9] Ontario has a program of moving away from coal and promoting renewable resources which has led to a number of industrial-scale photovoltaic plants being built. Located in Sarnia, Ontario, the 97 megawatt[10] Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant was briefly the largest solar farm in the world (in October 2010) and can power more than 12,000 homes.[11] Other plants include the 23.4 MW Arnprior Solar Generating Station and a 68 MW solar farm is in Sault Ste. Marie.

Until recently, the main applications of solar energy technologies in Canada have been for solar thermal system applications for space heating, water heating and drying crops and lumber. In 2001, there were more than 12,000 residential solar water heating systems and 300 commercial/ industrial solar hot water systems in use. These systems presently comprise a small fraction of Canada’s energy use, but some government studies suggest they could make up as much as five per cent of the country’s energy needs by the year 2025.

Canada has many regions that are sparsely populated and difficult to access. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are increasingly used as standalone units, mostly as off-grid distributed electricity generation to power remote homes, telecommunications equipment, oil and pipeline monitoring stations and navigational devices. The Canadian PV market has grown quickly and Canadian companies make solar modules, controls, specialized water pumps, high efficiency refrigerators and solar lighting systems.

One of the most important uses for PV cells is in northern communities, many of which depend on high-cost diesel fuel to generate electricity. Since the 1970s, the federal government and industry has encouraged the development of solar technologies for these communities. Some of these efforts have focused on the use of hybrid systems that provide power 24 hours a day, using solar power when sunlight is available, in combination with another energy source.

Wind power

Installed wind power capacity by province (2012)

As of June 2015, wind power generating capacity was 10,204 megawatts (MW), providing about 4% of Canada's electricity demand.[12] Ontario, Quebec and Alberta each had more than 1000 MW of nameplate capacity. All provinces and territories, except Nunavut, had some commercial wind power in 2012.


Bio-energy is a source of renewable energy that uses a variety of organic materials, referred to as biomass. Biomass is any biological material in liquid, solid, or gaseous form that is either a product of direct-photosynthesis or indirect-photosynthesis.[13] These products include: wood[wastes], municipal solid waste, manures, agricultural substances, separated household waste and sewage sludge, wastes streams, and also remaining substances found in forestry and related industries.[14] However, the most commonly employed biomass is wood; as wood waste can be easily combusted to produce heat for industrial facilities, create steam for electricity production, and also for water and space heating.[14]

Canada has been in a fortunate position, as it has an abundant amount of biomass products available (mainly from the forestry industry). This renewable energy sources has been growing within the Canadian industry, providing new jobs on a variety of scales to replace the job losses that were formerly reliant on traditional forest related jobs.[4]

Furthermore, after the steep decline in the paper and pulp industry over the past 20 years, bioenergy has become an integral part of Canada’s renewable energy sector.[14] In 2014, Canada had amassed a total of 70 bio-energy power plants with a capacity of 2,043 megawatts (as seen in the table below), with a central focus on wood biomass.[4] Moreover, a total of 8.7 gigawatt hours of current was created by utilizing wood, organic municipal solid wastes, and landfill gas; this was most prominently seen where forestry industries are still prevalent: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and New Brunswick.[4]

The following is a chart derived from Natural Resource Canada:[4]

Bioenergy Generating Capacity in Canadian provinces (in megawatts)[4]
Provinces Total biomass
Newfoundland and Labrador 27
Prince Edward Island 2
Nova Scotia 66
New Brunswick 113
Quebec 205
Ontario 681
Manitoba 52
Saskatchewan 16
Alberta 55
British Columbia 827
Canada 2,043

Local policies

Responsibilities of all government levels in Canada

In Canada the authority to legislate and implement policies regarding renewable energy is divided between three levels of government- the Federal, Provincial and Local/Municipal government. Since the enactment of the Constitution Act of 1867, the power to legislate the use of natural resources remains mainly in the hands of the provincial governments as they have the power to govern and manage the natural resources that falls within its territorial boundaries.[4] Accordingly, section 92(a) of the Constitution Act and its amendments from 1982 entails that provinces have total control over the forestry, electricity and other non-renewable energy sources; furthermore, this also included the power to implement taxes and royalties against resource extraction operations.[15] Moreover, provinces also obtained the authority to explore and develop both renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy as well as manage facilities (and sites) responsible for generating electricity. Therefore, provinces were given authority to manage and plan for the use of provincial lands, and thus acquired the right to develop their own strategic energy market.

Consequently, on the other hand, the responsibilities of the federal government completely differ. Their responsibilities include creating national legislation that regulates the trade and sale of renewable and non-renewable energy (nationwide and internationally). Additionally this level of government also maintains and develops policies regards fisheries. Moreover, they are tasked to create and implement laws to raise money and taxes of any sort, and as well as managing land resources owned by the Federal government. Hypothetically, the federal government can not interfere or act on any territories owned or managed by the province but can indirectly influence them by setting the national agenda.[15]

Finally, the municipal/local government which does not have same level of authority to act and enact laws as the provincial and federal government, but does hold a massive influence in the policy making and implementation process. Most authority given to municipal governments are outlined in the provincial legislature which allows local governments to create by-laws according to its constituency, and also including its own zoning regulations and construction permits.[16] Similarly, Indigenous communities and leaders practice as the primary authority on local native lands and reserves. Any resources that fall within Indigenous borders remains under the command of the community and its leaders. As Federal and Provincial laws are required to be administered within the respective territories of Canada, it is the Municipal government that is responsible for enforcing and implementing such legislation within their confines.


Ontario's Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (GEGEA), previously in force, takes a two-pronged approach to creating a renewable energy economy. The first is to bring more renewable energy sources to the province and the second is the creation of more energy efficiency measures to help conserve energy. The bill also appoints a Renewable Energy Facilitator to provide "one-window" assistance and support to project developers in order to facilitate project approvals. The approvals process for transmission projects are also streamlined and for the first time in Ontario, the bill enacts standards for renewable energy projects. Homeowners now have access to incentives to develop small-scale renewables such as low- or no-interest loans to finance the capital cost of renewable energy generating facilities like solar panels.[17] Information retrieved from National Energy Board of Canada:[18]

Civil society and interest groups

Today, there are numerous different civil society and interest groups that are involved in the renewable energy policy making process in Canada. These groups vary in their beliefs and positions regarding the use of renewable energy, with some advocating on behalf of renewable energy and some advocating for various other interests in the energy sector. These groups can include non-profit organizations, environmental activist groups, and as well as corporate interest groups with high levels of investment in industries other than renewable energy.

As a democracy it is uncommon for policy to pass without forms of public participation, typically attended by active individual citizens and also including various interest groups. These groups typically consist of members of the public electorate and is filled with people who come from varying backgrounds. Members of these groups can be academic experts with first hand knowledge of the topic/issue and can provide valuable information to help inform policy makers to create legislation. They can also include private citizens who are politically active and wish to address an issue. Furthermore, these groups can also consist of industries who own a physical stake in an issue area and might lobby on behalf of their own private interests whether it is political, financial, or social in nature.

Examples of some influential interest groups lobbying to the Canadian government in the energy and environmental sector includes the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (an organization dedicated towards representing the interests of the Oil sands) and the Natural Gas industry in Canada. Another private interest lobbying group is the Mining Association of Canada, responsible for representing corporations interested in mining projects, and mineral exploration. Other examples of industrial lobby groups include: the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Electricity Association, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, and the Forest Products Association.[19]

Examples of influential activist and environmentally based non-profit groups include the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CFRA), which is an organization committed towards promoting the use of products and energy made from renewable resources such as ethanol, biodiesel, and other various biofuels.[19] The CFRA works regularly with Federal and Provincial governments in Canada in order to help achieve GHG reduction targets as well as to attract investment towards the Renewable energy industry. Moreover, another example of non-profit groups involved in policy consultations is the International Institute for Sustainable Development; this is a collective body committed towards promoting sustainable development by conducting policy research as well by interacting with NGO’s, governments, and private corporations to develop sustainable environmental policies. Various other examples of such type of groups include: Greenpeace Canada, The David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Wildlife Federation, and Environmental Defence Canada.[19]

Finally, governments can also be recognized as an influential interest group and also maintain input in the consultation phase of policy-making. An example is the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, who acts as a voice for the municipal/local governments nationwide. This group advocates on behalf of the needs of their citizens and represent the various communities within Canada from large urban cities/municipalities to smaller and rural municipalities and counties.[19]

Indigenous efforts

Indigenous communities throughout Canada play an integral part within the renewable energy market. They are the First Nations to have inhabited Canada. In regards to renewable energy initiatives, they are in support of policies and plans that reduce the degradation of “mother earth”.

However, indigenous communities state that they are not consulted and debriefed during the planning process of projects, leading to unequitable relationship between project developers, the government, and the First Nations in the region.[20] In a report based on renewable energy in Canada, with a principal focus on Aboriginal and environmental issues, the emerging problem discussed was the inherent gridlock in the energy development sector.[20] This gridlock occurs because of projects fail to recognize and may infringe on property rights of First Nations traditional territories (The Calder vs British Columbia case-1973- giving indigenous members of Canada Inextinguishable Property Rights).[21] This also includes: the absence of trust amongst the different parties involved, differing concerns of environmental degradation, and insufficient shared visions to create a mutually benefiting project. Aboriginal rights, such as hunting and fishing, are protected under the Constitution of Canada and cannot be infringed without justification.

Nevertheless, renewable energy initiatives are being deployed throughout Indigenous communities. One being Whitesand First Nation, which is a community north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, who is not integrated within the provincial electrical grid. This is one of twenty-five communities in Northern Ontario who are solely reliant on diesel fuel.[22] These communities face many challenges, such as: blackouts, diesel spills, and volatile cost of transporting fuel (often by a means of icy roads and treacherous plane rides). With diesel generators running persistently all through winter, Ontario has been working on means to expand the electrical grid, but with long delays, Whitesand First Nation with the coordination of the province have been in the process of developing a new renewable power station in this community.[22] This energy plant will developed organic wood pellets to heat and power biomass locations and facilities.[22]

Furthermore, renewable energy developments can be also seen in Cat Lake First Nations, where this Indigenous community has signed an agreement to instal solar power that would generate 40 MW h of energy (which would power an estimated 6,650 homes). In this agreement, the First Nations own 51 percent of the company while the remainder is owned by a mining company (AurCrest).[23]

The conclusion made by scholars is that Indigenous communities play a significant role within the energy market and they need to be consulted to ensure a good relationship is created between private corporations, and the government.[20] As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the cheaper the cost of implementing (and manufacturing) energies such as: solar power, wind power, geothermal power, and bio-energy become to create a healthier renewable energy market.

Provincial breakdown

Nunavut - Electricity almost all generated from Diesel fuel

- Power lines to transport energy from Manitoba to Nunavut are in planning stages

- Goals in place to reduce dependency on fossil fuels

- There are currently no real renewable sources of energy or infrastructure that exists in territory

Quebec - Crown corporations own and generate most electricity in province

- Electricity nearly all made from renewable sources; Hydroenergy generating the most of the electricity

- Goals to reduce GHG emissions are set for 2020; through the implementation Climate Change Action Plan

- Wind power provides over 4000 MW of energy

British Columbia - Close to 95% of BC’s electricity is generated from renewables sources

- Hydro remains the primary source of power generation along with biomass, natural gas, also including wind and oil power

- Wind Capacity continues to grow; presently (2016) there are 4 wind farms in operation in B.C

- Provincial Crown corporations own and operate over 80% of Renewable Energy infrastructure

Manitoba - Most of Manitoba’s electricity is generated through hydropower; currently (2016) over 15 hydroelectric plants are located by the Nelson River

- Two wind power facilities built at St. Leon and St. Joseph contribute over 200 MW of power

- Province plans to export clean energy to other provinces and states

- Provincial taxes implemented on the use of coal and petroleum; also there are plans to ban coal as a resource by 2017

- Plans to reduce GHG’s by 1/3 by the year 2030

Yukon - Most electricity is generated by hydro but province also relies on diesel and Liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet demand

- Biomass energy strategies are in place to contribute towards home heating

Northwest Territories - Energy use in the NWT can be split roughly into thirds - 1/3 electricity, 1/3 heating and 1/3 transportation.[24]

- Roughly 1/3 of electricity generated in the NWT is renewable, with the majority coming from hydro-electricity[24] and smaller contributions from wind and solar PV.

- Roughly 10% of heating energy in the NWT is renewable, with the majority coming from wood pellets and smaller contributions from cord wood.[24]

- Has high potential to generate energy through hydro and wind power

- Current initiatives are in place to expand and promote use of biomass, wind power, and solar Energy

Ontario - Ontario leads Canada with its wind and solar power capacity

- Use of coal was phased out in 2014

- The majority of the population is using biomass energy

- Policies such as Cap and Trade are implemented

- Current Provincial goals indicate a desire to increase renewable energy to over 20,000 MW by 2025 (half of current generation)

Alberta - Alberta has the capacity to develop over 1500 MW through wind power at Blackspring Ridge Wind Farm

- Energy generation from renewable sources increased by 66% between 2005-2015

- Difficulties have grown to maintain hydro and solar energy due to the vast distances between suitable hydro generating facilities, land resources, and primary demand centers

- Net-Metering policies in place

- Majority of energy is generated through the use of coal and natural gas

- Support growing for the use of biomass to generate energy

- Currently (2016) the province has with the highest GHG emission levels-contributing to over 57% of Canada’s GHG emissions

Saskatchewan - Coal is the primary source of energy followed by natural gas, hydro, and then wind power

- Net-metering policies in place

- Initiatives are being implemented to add more wind farms to the current list of 5; Saskatchewan is hoping double wind power generation by 2017

- Plans are being generated to develop Solar energy projects

- Contributes to over 18% of Canada’s GHG emissions

See also


  1. ^ "Worldwide Electricity Production From Renewable Energy Sources: Stats and Figures Series: Fourteenth Inventory – Edition 2012" (PDF). 2.2 Electricity Production From Wind Sources: Main Wind Power Producing Countries – 2011 (text & table): Observ'ER. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ "IEA - Report". Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  3. ^ Canadian Government. "Renewable freshwater resources, water use and gross domestic product for selected countries". Statistics Canada.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Chapter 1". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  5. ^ Kaunda, Chiyembekezo S.; Kimambo, Cuthbert Z.; Nielsen, Torbjorn K. (2012-12-27). "Hydropower in the Context of Sustainable Energy Supply: A Review of Technologies and Challenges". ISRN Renewable Energy. 2012: 1–15. doi:10.5402/2012/730631.
  6. ^ Petr, T. (2002). "Cold Water Fisheries in the Trans-Himalayan Countries" – via FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ BP Statistical World Energy Review 2014, archived from the original (XLS) on 22 June 2014, retrieved 29 January 2015
  10. ^ Large-scale photovoltaic power plants ranking 1 - 50 Archived 2016-01-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Enbridge completes Sarnia solar farm". CBC News. 4 October 2010.
  12. ^ Canwea (May 1, 2014). "Powering Canada's Future" (PDF). Canwea.
  13. ^ "INTRODUCTION TO BIOENERGY". Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
  14. ^ a b c Bradburn, Kendal (2014). "2014 CanBio Report on the Status of Bioenergy in Canada" (PDF) – via Natural Resources Canada.
  15. ^ a b Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Consolidated Acts". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  16. ^ "Roles and Responsibilities of Governments in Natural Resources". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  17. ^ Ontario Unveils Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009
  18. ^ National Energy Board, Government of Canada (2016). Canada's Renewable Power Landscape: Energy Market Analysis 2016 (PDF). Ottawa. pp. 1–39. ISSN 2371-5804.
  19. ^ a b c d Canada, Environment and Climate Change. "Key contacts and stakeholders -". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  20. ^ a b c Griss, Paul (2013). "Responsible Energy Resource Development in Canada" (PDF). The Globe and mail.
  22. ^ a b c Government of Canada (2017-01-13). "Spotlight: Bioenergy in Indigenous communities". Resource Canada.
  23. ^ Freeman, Sunny (Jan 6, 2017). "Industry and indigenous communities let the sun in on the shared problem of diesel". Financial Post. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  24. ^ a b c Robinson, Andrew, ed. (October 2016). "100% Renewable Energy in the NWT by 2050 - Starting the Conversation" (PDF). Alternatives North: 11 & 12. Retrieved 2018-01-12.

External links

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