With the race to reduce the rate of global warming, many countries are shifting to renewable energy and away from energy sources such as oil or gas. Canada is among the countries that are committed to reducing its consumption of non-renewable energy and its carbon footprint.
In this article, we look at the use of renewable energy in Canada, including the different types of renewable energy and how they are used. We also explore how much renewable energy different provinces and territories are using.
Renewable Energy Statistics for Canadians
- Since 2018, over two-thirds of Canada’s power supply has come from renewable sources.
- Canada has over 540 hydroelectric stations.
- Bioenergy is produced at seventy power plants in Canada.
- In 2021, 6% of Canada’s energy was produced at wind farms.
- Canada’s solar power capacity was 15 times bigger in 2021 compared to 2010.
- The production and use of electricity produce over 80% of Canada’s greenhouse emissions.
- Canada’s government is investing in measures to reduce greenhouse emissions, including 15 billion CAD in investments.
Renewable Energy in Canada
Canada has substantial access to renewable resources such as moving water, biomass, solar, and wind energy that can be utilised in energy production and the country is a world leader in harnessing renewable energy.
In 2018, 66.2% of the primary energy supply in Canada came from renewable energy sources, and between 2010 and 2018, the use of coal, natural gas, petroleum, and nuclear decreased from 37.2% to 33.8%.
Canada is the second largest hydroelectricity producer in the world. In 2018, 59.4% of the energy in Canada was generated by using moving water. After water sources, wind power is the second largest source of renewable energy. In 2021, it provided 6% of all energy in Canada. Solar and wind energies are the fastest-growing electricity sources in Canada.
What are the Different Forms of Renewable Energy?
Using renewable energy means energy from sources that are replenished at the same rate, or faster, than the rate of consumption. We can use the energy produced by renewable sources for electricity, space and water conditioning, industrial heating, and fuel for transportation.
Hydroelectricity refers to using the kinetic power of running water to produce energy. According to the Canadian government, there were 542 hydroelectric stations in Canada in 2014 with a total capacity of 78,359 megawatts. Quebec is the largest hydroelectricity producer in Canada followed by British Columbia and Ontario.
Biomass is a material that stores sunlight as chemical energy that can be used to produce bioenergy. It does not include materials such as petroleum or coal that have been processed into substances over a long time.
In Canada, bioenergy is currently the second most significant form of renewable energy. 4.6% of Canadian households use wood as either a primary or secondary source for heating. There were 70 bioenergy power plants in Canada at the end of 2014 and they had a total capacity of 2,043 megawatts.
Biofuels refer to fuels from renewable sources. Canada produced 2% of the global biofuels in 2013 and was fifth behind the US, Brazil, the EU, and China. Canada produces two types of biofuel: ethanol and biodiesel. In 2013, 124 million litres of biodiesel and 1.7 billion litres of ethanol were produced in Canada.
Wind power is another form of kinetic energy. By the end of 2014, Canada had over 5,130 wind turbines spread across 225 wind farms and by 2021, 6% of all energy was obtained from wind power. They had a capacity of 9,694 megawatts. In 1998, there were only eight wind farms with 60 wind turbines, producing just 27 megawatts.
Solar energy is derived from the radiated heat and light from the sun. It can be used to heat and light buildings as well as to produce electricity. The disadvantage of solar energy is that it can only be harnessed in the daytime and when it is not cloudy. There has been significant growth in using solar energy in Canada, and the capacity in 2021 was fifteen times more than in 2010.
Geothermal energy is produced by capturing heat stored under the earth’s surface, in the oceans, or atmosphere. Already, in 2010, there were more than 95,000 operational ground-source heat pumps in Canada, which represented approximately 1,045 megawatts of thermal energy.
Ocean energy converts ocean tides and waves into energy. However, there are various economic, technical, and environmental factors to consider when using ocean energy, meaning that currently, it is not a widely used energy source. However, there are some tidal power plants in Canada, for example in Nova Scotia with a capacity of 20 megawatts.
Use of Renewable Energy Across the Country
While over two-thirds of the energy in Canada comes from renewable sources, the picture is not even across the country. However, all of Canada has seen a growth in the use of renewable sources.
Their use grew by 16.7% across the country between 2010 and 2018. During those years, the use of renewable sources grew the most in Ontario at 51.1%, Alberta at 46.1%, and Prince Edward Island at 38.7%.
While most of Alberta’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, the province is emerging as a leader in wind energy. The province doubled its wind capacity between 2010 and 2017 and it is expected to have doubled again by the end of 2023. In 2018, Alberta produced 9.1% of its energy from renewable sources.
British Columbia has one of the largest renewable energy capacities in the country. The province’s hydro capacity has grown by 2,703 megawatts since 2010. It also produces the most electricity from biomass in Canada. In 2018, 89.8% of the electricity in British Columbia came from hydro energy. The second largest source was biomass, with 5.6%. In total, the province generated 97.95% of its total energy from renewable sources.
In 2018, 97% of the electricity in Manitoba was produced by its fifteen hydro stations, even though the hydro generation was at its lowest in fourteen years because of the water conditions. 2.8% of the total energy in Manitoba comes from wind power and a small fraction comes from biomass. The province’s energy is almost exclusively from renewable sources, with 99.9% of the total generation.
In New Brunswick, around one-third of electricity comes from renewable sources, and including the nuclear reactor of Point Lepreau, 70% of the electricity comes from non-emitting sources. The remaining electricity is produced using fossil fuels. Water is the main renewable energy source, followed by wind and biomass. New Brunswick also provides electricity for Prince Edward Island.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador not only produces hydroelectricity for its own use but also exports it. The hydro energy station of Churchill Falls is the second largest hydro energy facility in Canada. Despite the large capacity for hydro energy, much of the province’s residential thermal generation is still from diesel and oil.
In the Northwest Territories, 52.8% of the territory’s electricity was generated using water energy in 2018. However, the total amount generated varies year on year because of the water conditions that affect the level of water. The total energy from renewable sources in 2018 was 56.6% of the total generation with wind turbines producing an additional 3.8%.
In 2018, only a quarter of electricity in Nova Scotia came from renewable sources, with fossil fuels providing the rest. 73.9% of the energy in the province came from coal, natural gas, diesel, and oil. This is the highest percentage in the whole country. 13% of energy came from wind power and 13.1% from a combination of hydro, biomass, and tidal energy.
Nunavut has a unique electricity system with 25 communities that produce their own electricity. While diesel is still used in all the communities, solar and wind options are being increasingly explored in Nunavut. One challenge for energy production and the increased use of renewable energy sources in Nunavut is the scattered and sparse population. This has resulted in the communities relying on local diesel generators to produce the electricity they need.
Ontario is one of the leading provinces for generating electricity from non-emitting sources. In 2018, over 92% came from non-emitting sources, with over one-third from renewables and the rest from nuclear power. Hydro energy is the largest renewable source, but wind, solar, and biomass are also used. The largest electricity source in 2018 was the eighteen nuclear reactors in the province.
Prince Edward Island
In 2018, 99.2% of electricity generated in Prince Edward Island was renewable and most of it came from wind power. It had the highest percentage of wind power in the country. Prince Edward Island, together with Nunavut, is the only province/ territory not using hydro energy. The province also imports electricity from New Brunswick.
Quebec has several large hydro energy resources throughout the province and it generates 94.3% of its total electricity using water. Biomass and wind provide 5.3% of Quebec’s electricity and the province is the second-largest Canadian jurisdiction for wind power and biomass. In addition, Quebec exports the most electricity in Canada.
Saskatchewan saw little growth in the use of renewable energy between 2010 and 2017. However, the province is expected to see more renewable energy use in the future with developments in biomass, solar, and wind power use. While coal and natural gas are the primary electricity sources, hydro is the largest source of renewable energy in Saskatchewan. In 2018, 18.8% of total energy generation was from renewable sources.
Yukon produces the most renewable energy out of all the territories. In 2018, 93.9% of all electricity in Yukon came from hydro energy. Yukon has harnessed hydro energy very efficiently, considering the challenges it faces because of the climate. For example, they store water during the summer, so they can release it in the winter when demand is high. This storage ability is crucial as the largest hydro plant in Yukon loses almost half of its potential during the winter as the flow is reduced on the Yukon River.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Canada
Over 80% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and use of energy. Fuel combustion and transportation each represent a 26% share of emissions. 13% comes from buildings, 9% from manufacturing industries, and 7% are fugitive emissions. 83% of the electricity system in Canada is non-emitting, which places it among the cleanest systems in the world.
Canada’s Target for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In 2015, under the Paris Agreement, Canada set itself the target to reduce greenhouse gases to 30% below the 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve the target, leaders from all provinces and territories together with the federal government, created a plan focused on four pillars, which are:
- price on carbon pollution
- actions to reduce emissions
- adaptation together with climate resilience
- clean technology.
In 2019, the Canadian government further strengthened the country’s commitment to a cleaner future with the target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. A year later, the government proposed a new plan that included 64 new measures and 15 billion CAD in investments.
Canada is committed to using renewable energy sources to reduce its use of non-renewable sources and greenhouse gas emissions. While progress has been made across the whole country, some provinces and territories are further ahead than others because of the challenges posed by the climate and availability of renewable sources. However, overall, Canada is one the leading countries in the world for renewable energy use.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much of Canadian energy comes from renewable sources?
In 2018, 66.2% of Canada’s energy supply came from renewable sources.
Are all provinces and territories using renewable energy?
All provinces are using renewable energy, but there are differences in how much renewable energy is used. While places like Alberta and Nunavut still rely heavily on non-renewable sources such as gas and oil, others, including Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, are now mostly using renewable energy sources.
What is the most used renewable energy source in Canada?
Hydro energy is currently the most used energy source in Canada. However, wind and solar energy are growing the fastest.