Canada's Renewable Power
Decarbonizing electricity and electrifying end-use energy are two key components in Canada’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon energy future. Canada’s Renewable Power: Recent and Near-Term Developments (Canada’s Renewable Power) examines the first component. This report is an evolution of past reports on renewable energy published by the Canada Energy Regulator’s (CER) predecessor, the National Energy Board. These reports include Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape (2017) and Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources (2017).
Canada’s Renewable Power reviews the current status of renewable electricity in Canada in two key ways. First, we explore recent trends in both electricity capacity and generation for each province and territory in Canada. Second, supported by a review of the many projects currently under development, we explore a short-term outlook for planned capacity changes in each province and territory. This report only examines the use of renewables for electricity generation and not for heat, transport, or other end-uses.
Canada’s Renewable Power focuses on renewable capacity changes projected over 2018-2023. This time frame reflects projects and retirements completed, or proposed, with the most recently available capacity data from 2017. The underlying data in this report is from Canada’s Energy Future 2020 (EF2020), but here we provide more detailed information on the projects and retirements that underpin the data. We exclude generation projections as these are more dependent on the specifics of the EF2020 scenarios and modeling. Projected generation and long-term capacity changes are available in the data appendices for EF2020.
Data in this Report
The electricity generation and capacity data used in this report is from EF2020. The Energy Futures series is the CER’s long-term outlook for energy supply and demand in Canada. Historical data for electricity generation is available up to 2018. Historical data for electricity capacity is available up to 2017.
Near-term (2018-2023) changes to capacity are primarily based on renewable energy projects that are under construction or have been completed or proposed, with some adjustments based on provincial renewable mandates and targets. Additionally, capacity changes are sometimes adjusted upwards in the Canada’s Energy Future model to meet demand changes, though such adjustments are minimal in the near term.Footnote 1 The projections for capacity changes illustrated in Canada’s Renewable Power are from the Evolving Energy Systems Scenario (Evolving Scenario) in EF2020.Footnote 2
Additional data on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and generation intensity is from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) annual National Inventory Report.
This report uses Tableau for its interactive graphs.
Capacity versus Generation
Electricity is generated when raw energy (for example, natural gas, coal, sunlight, or wind) is converted to electric energy.
Capacity is the maximum electric output a generation station can produce at any point in time. Capacity is measured in megawatts (MW).
Generation is the amount of electricity produced over a period of time, and can be measured in watt-hours. A watt-hour is the electricity made or used by a one watt device during one hour. A common unit for measurement is a gigawatt-hour (GW.h). A GW.h is equivalent to 100 million ten-watt LED lights being left on for an hour. While this might seem like a large amount of energy, Canada generated 647 716 GW.h in 2018.
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 CER considers energy to be renewable if it is derived from natural processes that can be replenished at a rate that is equal to, or faster than, the rate at which they are consumed. In other words, if 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, the manufacturing of facility components, and the extraction and refining of any raw materials that are needed.
This report considers electricity generated from hydro, tidal, wind, solar, biomass, and nuclear to be non-emitting.Footnote 3
About the CER
This report falls within the CER’s Energy Information core responsibility, which is closely linked to its mandate and responsibilities under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act (CER Act), which include advising and reporting on energy matters. Under the CER Act, the CER also has jurisdiction over offshore renewable projects and certain power lines.
In our transition to a low-carbon economy, Canadians need reliable information on the energy issues that they face, including data and information about energy infrastructure near their communities. Energy information helps them understand what is going on in the energy sector today, as well as where it may go in the future.
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