Renewable energy in Canada

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As of 2016, renewable technologies provide about 17% of Canada’s total primary energy supply[1] and about 65% of its electricity production.

The majority of renewable energy comes from hydroelectricity, supplying 58% of total electricity production in 2016 and making Canada the 2nd largest producer of hydroelectric power globally.[2] Wind power is a fast growing sector of the energy market, accounting for 5% of electricity production in 2016. Globally, Canada was the 8th largest producer of wind power in 2016. Canada has also built many photovoltaic power stations, 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.

A Statistics Canada study has found that all environmental and clean technology activities accounted for 3.1% or $59.3 billion of the Canadian gross domestic product in 2016, edging up from 3.0% in 2007. The number of workers employed in the environmental and clean technology sector in 2016 was 4.5% higher than in 2007, compared to an 8.4% increase for the total workforce over the same period.[3]



Canada has about 75 GW of installed hydroelectric capacity, producing 392 TWh of electricity in 2013.[4] 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.

In 2014, Canada had 542 hydroelectric stations with an installed capacity of 78,359 megawatts.[5] Hydroelectricity has developed in Canada where geography and hydrography have permitted, particularly in Quebec. Yet environmental and social issues will persist if sustainable hydro-power projects are not planned carefully.[6] Some examples of this include stagnation of water, fish migration issues, uprooting of communities, habitat loss and possible extinction of species.[7]

Solar power

Southern Canada has plentiful solar energy resources, with the most extensive resources being found in southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.[8][9]

With 1210 MWp of installed photovoltaics in 2013, Canada ranked 15th among the world's countries.[10] Ontario has a program of moving away from coal and promoting renewable resources which have led to many industrial-scale photovoltaic plants being built. Located in Sarnia, Ontario, the 97 megawatt[11] Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant can power more than 12,000 homes, and in October 2010 was the largest solar farm in the world.[12] 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 percent of the country’s energy needs by the year 2025[citation needed].

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, 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 have 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.

The National Energy Board of Canada expects that by 2040, solar power will generate 1.2% of the country's electricity while wind will provide 9.5%.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[16]

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 source 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.[5]

Furthermore, after the steep decline in the paper and pulp industry over the past 20 years, bio-energy has become an integral part of Canada’s renewable energy sector.[16] 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.[5] 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.[5]

The following is a chart derived from Natural Resource Canada:[5]

Bio-energy Generating Capacity in Canadian provinces (in megawatts)[5]
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 put in place policies on 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 fall within its territorial boundaries.[5] 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 put in place taxes and royalties against resource extraction operations.[17] Moreover, provinces also obtained the authority to explore and develop both renewable and non-renewable sources of energy as well as manage facilities (and sites) responsible for generating electricity. Provinces were given authority to manage and plan for the use of provincial lands and thus acquired the right to develop their strategic energy market.

Responsibilities of the Federal government differ entirely: these include creating national legislation that regulates the trade and sale of renewable and non-renewable energy both nationwide and internationally. The federal authority also maintains and develops policies regarding fisheries. Moreover, they are tasked to create and put 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 neither interfere nor act on any territories owned or operated by the province but can indirectly influence them by setting the national agenda.[17]

Finally, the Municipal/Local government which does not have the same level of authority to enact laws as the Provincial and Federal government, but does hold a massive influence in the policy-making and implementation process. The most power 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.[18] Similarly, indigenous communities and leaders practise 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 a municipal government that is responsible for implementing such legislation.


Ontario's Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 (GEGEA), previously in force, takes a two-pronged approach to create 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 to help 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.[19][20]

Civil society and interest groups

Numerous civil society interest groups are involved in the renewable energy policy-making process in Canada. These groups vary in their beliefs: they 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 a policy to pass without forms of public participation, typically attended by active individual citizens and also including various interest groups. Members of these groups can be academic experts with first-hand knowledge of the topic/issue and can provide valuable information to help inform policymakers to create legislation. Furthermore, these groups can also consist of industries who own a physical stake in an issue area and might lobby on behalf of their private interests whether it is political, financial, or social.

Examples of some influential interest groups lobbying to the Canadian government in the energy and environmental sector include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (an organization dedicated to 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, and industrial lobby groups.[a] One non-profit environmental is the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CFRA), an organization committed to the promotion of products and energy made from renewable resources such as ethanol, biodiesel, and other various biofuels.[21] The CFRA regularly works with Federal and Provincial governments in Canada 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 collective body is committed to promoting sustainable development by conducting policy research as well by interacting with NGOs, governments, and private corporations to develop sustainable environmental policies.[b] Governments also recognize influential interest groups that maintain input in the consultation phase of policy-making. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities that acts as a voice for municipal/local governments nationwide. The group advocates on behalf of the needs of all Canadian citizens.[21]

Indigenous efforts

First Nations communities throughout Canada play an integral part within the renewable energy market. In regards to renewable energy initiatives, they are in support of policies and plans that reduce environmental degradation. Indigenous communities still argue that they are neither consulted nor debriefed during the planning process of projects causing an inequitable relationship between project developers, the government, and the First Nations in the region.[22] 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.[22] Gridlock occurs because projects fail to recognize the infringement of property rights in First Nations traditional territories[c] There is an absence of trust between the parties concerns with environmental degradation, and insufficient shared visions to create a mutually beneficial project. Aboriginal rights, such as hunting and fishing, remain protected under the Constitution of Canada.

Renewable energy initiatives are deployed throughout Indigenous communities: Whitesand First Nation, which is a community north of Thunder Bay, Ontario is not integrated within the provincial electrical grid. This is one of the twenty-five communities in Northern Ontario that are solely reliant on diesel fuel.[24] 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 constantly running throughout 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 has been developing a new renewable power station in this community.[24] The energy plant develops organic wood pellets to heat and power biomass locations and facilities.[24]

Furthermore, renewable energy developments can also be seen in Cat Lake First Nations, where this Indigenous community has signed an agreement to install 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 rest is owned by a mining company (AurCrest).[25] Many scholars believe 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.[22] As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the cheaper cost of implementing (and manufacturing) energies such as solar power, wind power, geothermal power, and bio-energy the more a competitive renewable energy market will emerge.

Provincial breakdown

Nunavut - Almost all electricity is 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 the territory

Quebec - Crown corporations own and generate most electricity in the province

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

- Goals to reduce GHG emissions are set for 2020; through the implementation of the 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 four 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.[26]

- Roughly 1/3 of electricity generated in the NWT is renewable, with the majority coming from hydro-electricity[26] 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 cordwood.[26]

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

- Current initiatives are in place to expand and promote the 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 the current generation)

Alberta - Alberta can 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

- The 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. ^ include the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Electricity Association, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, and the Forest Products Association.[21]
  2. ^ Various other examples of such type of groups include Greenpeace Canada, The David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Wildlife Federation, and Environmental Defence Canada.[21]
  3. ^ The Calder vs British Columbia case-1973- giving indigenous members of Canada Inextinguishable Property Rights.[23]
  1. ^ Canada, Natural Resources (2017-10-06). "Renewable energy facts". Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  2. ^ Canada, Natural Resources (2017-10-06). "Renewable energy facts". Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  3. ^ "Environmental and Clean Technology Products Economic Account, 2007 to 2016". The Daily. Statistics Canada. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  4. ^ "IEA - Report". Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Chapter 1". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Petr, T. (2002). "Cold Water Fisheries in the Trans-Himalayan Countries" – via FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ BP Statistical World Energy Review 2014, archived from the original (XLS) on 22 June 2014, retrieved 29 January 2015
  11. ^ Large-scale photovoltaic power plants ranking 1 - 50 Archived 2016-01-01 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Enbridge completes Sarnia solar farm". CBC News. 4 October 2010.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Canwea (May 1, 2014). "Powering Canada's Future" (PDF). Canwea.
  15. ^ "INTRODUCTION TO BIOENERGY". Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
  16. ^ a b c Bradburn, Kendal (2014). "2014 CanBio Report on the Status of Bioenergy in Canada" (PDF) – via Natural Resources Canada.
  17. ^ a b Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of Canada, Consolidated Acts". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  18. ^ "Roles and Responsibilities of Governments in Natural Resources". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  19. ^ Ontario Unveils Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009
  20. ^ National Energy Board, Government of Canada (2016). Canada's Renewable Power Landscape: Energy Market Analysis 2016 (PDF). Ottawa. pp. 1–39. ISSN 2371-5804.
  21. ^ a b c d Canada, Environment and Climate Change. "Key contacts and stakeholders -". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  22. ^ a b c Griss, Paul (2013). "Responsible Energy Resource Development in Canada" (PDF). The Globe and mail.
  24. ^ a b c Government of Canada (2017-01-13). "Spotlight: Bioenergy in Indigenous communities". Resource Canada.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ 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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