Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape 2017 – Energy Market Analysis
By adding new renewable capacity and retiring old thermal generation facilities, Canada’s total generating capacity increased from 65.6% to 66.4% renewable in 2016, as the electricity sector continued to evolve towards a low-carbon future.
Canada’s non-hydro renewable power capacity grew by 8.2% in 2016 with an added 1 293 megawatts (MW) of solar, biomass, and wind. Non-hydro renewables comprised 11.5% of Canada’s total capacity. Hydro, Canada’s largest source of renewable electricity, comprised a further 54.8% of capacity in 2016.
Wind was the dominant source of new renewable capacity in Canada in 2016. In Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, wind comprised over half of net capacity additions. This was particularly noteworthy for Quebec, a province that generates 95.2% of its electricity from hydro, where wind capacity additions surpassed those of hydro by 104 MW. Ontario led the country in total wind (467 MW), biomass (188 MW) and solar (172 MW) capacity additions.
On a national scale, natural gas generation decreased by 5.4% in 2016. This was driven by decreases in British Columbia (B.C.), the Northwest Territories (NWT), Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, where coal is a large fuel source for electricity, natural gas generation increased as part a long-term trend away from coal and towards less GHG-emitting sources. Between 2005 and 2016, coal generation decreased from 16.1% to 9.3% of Canada’s total generation, while natural gas increased from 6.8% to 9.6%.
B.C. and Manitoba reduced their total generating capacity in 2016 by retiring thermal generation facilities. With these changes, both provinces moved closer to having fully renewable electric generation capacities.
Since 2005, the electricity sector has outpaced all other major industries in Canada in emissions reduction. Emissions from electricity generation fell by 32.6% between 2005 and 2015, while Canada’s total emissions fell by only 2.2%. In 2015, the electricity sector accounted for only 10.9% of Canada’s emissions, down from 15.8% in 2005.
Generation versus capacity
Capacity is the maximum electric output a facility can produce, and can be measured in MW. Generation is the process of producing electric energy by transforming other forms of energy using this capacity. Generation also describes the amount of electricity produced, and can be measured in gigawatt hours (GW.h). A watt hour is the electricity made or used by a one watt device for one hour.
What is renewable electricity? What is non-emitting electricity?
All methods of generating electricity can have positive and negative consequences. Consistent with many Canadian and international organizations, the NEB considers energy to be renewable if it is derived from natural processes that are replenished at a rate that is equal to or faster than the rate at which they are consumed. In other words, the resource is a sustainable source of energy. For this report, electricity generated from hydro, tidal, wind, biomass and solar are considered renewable.
Electricity is considered non-emitting if the process of generating electricity does not emit GHG emissions. Non-emitting electricity could still have GHG emissions associated with the construction of the facility. This report considers electricity generated from hydro, tidal, wind, biomass solar and nuclear to be non-emitting. Biomass is considered non-emitting because the carbon released from burning biofuels was previously absorbed out of the atmosphere by plants. The net emissions from using biomass fuel can be zero, if biomass is used at the same rate that it regenerates.
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