Electricity Annual Trade Summary – 2020

In 2020, electricity export volumes increased 11%, while import volumes decreased 26% from 2019. Net exports were valued at $2.3 billion. In 2020, the average export price decreased 9% since 2019, and the average import price decreased 33%.

In general, electricity trade is affected by regional supply and demand. Regional supply largely depends on availability of generation, supply outages, and precipitation (for hydropower). Regional demand largely depends on seasonal and daily temperatures and industrial activity. All these contribute to the variability of trade from year to year. For more information about electricity markets, please see electricity Market Snapshots.

Table 1: Summary of Electricity Trade

Table 1: Summary of Electricity Trade
  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Energy (TW.h)
Exports (Sales) 73.1 72.0 61.4 60.4 67.2
Imports (Purchases) 9.3 9.9 13.2 13.3 9.8
Net Exports 63.8 62.1 48.2 47.1 57.3
Price ($/MW.h)
Exports (Sales) 38.47 38.57 45.41 40.71 36.90
Imports (Purchases) 26.34 24.11 38.63 44.36 29.91
ValueTable Note 1 ($ Billion)
Exports (Sales) 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.5 2.6
Imports (Purchases) 0.3 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.3
Net Value 2.7 2.7 2.4 1.9 2.3

TW.h = Terrawatt hours
MW.h = Megawatt hours
$/MW.h = Canadian dollars per megawatt hour

Source: CER Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of April 2021.
Numbers may not add up due to rounding.

The data on this page are provided in EXCEL format (.XLSX) and are updated annually. Import and export data is filed with the CER 30 days after the end of each month. For the latest export and import data, including updates and revisions, please visit the Commodity Statistics portal.

Figure Data [EXCEL 118 KB] – Updated April 2021

Contact cts-ssp@cer-rec.gc.ca for further information.

Export and Imports

Net Exports

Figure 1 shows that electricity net exports increased 22% from 47.1 TW.h in 2019 to 57.3 TW.h in 2020.

Exports

In 2020, exports were 67.2 TW.h, an increase of 11% from the previous year. In general, exports were higher in 2016 and 2017 than 2018, 2019, and 2020. Historically, provinces with significant hydro-based generation have exported large amounts of power, and high export years usually coincide with high precipitation years.

Imports

In 2020, electricity imports decreased 26% from 2019 levels, from 13.3 TW.h to 9.8 TW.h.

In general, importing electricity helps avoid the costs of building additional generation in Canada that would sit idle at non-peak times. Canadian provinces have a greater capacity to exchange electricity with the U.S. along north-south interconnections than between neighboring Canadian provinces. Therefore, although electricity pricing in U.S. markets is usually higher than in Canadian markets, provinces frequently import electricity from the U.S. to meet periods of peak demand or when importing is cheaper than generating electricity regionally.

Figure 1: Yearly and Monthly Electricity Trade

Source and Description

Source: CER Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of April 2021: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary.

Figure Description:
This figure shows yearly and monthly electricity trade since 2016. In 2020, exports were 67.2 TW.h, imports were 9.8 TW.h. and net exports were 57.3 TW.h. In 2019, exports were 60.4 TW.h, imports were 13.3 TW.h. and net exports were 47.1 TW.h. In 2018, exports were 61.4 TW.h, imports were 13.2 TW.h. and net exports were 48.2 TW.h. In 2017, exports were 72.0 TW.h, imports were 9.9 TW.h. and net exports were 62.1 TW.h. In 2016, exports were 73.1 TW.h, imports were 9.3 TW.h. and net exports were 63.8 TW.h.

Figure 2: Yearly and Monthly Electricity Trade Values

The figure below shows yearly and monthly electricity trade values. August 2020 had the highest net export value over the five year period, reaching $0.32 billion. At $0.34 billion, August was the month with the highest export value during 2020. January was the month with the highest valued imports at $0.05 billion.

Source and Description

Source: CER Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of April 2021: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary.

Figure Description: This figure shows yearly and monthly electricity trade values since 2016. In 2020, export values were $2.57 billion, import values were $0.29 billion and net export values were $2.27 billion. In 2019, export values were $2.52 billion, import values were $0.59 billion and net export values were $1.93 billion. In 2018, export values were $2.91 billion, import values were $0.51 billion and net export values were $2.40 billion. In 2017, export values were $2.93 billion, import values were $0.24 billion and net export values were $2.69 billion. In 2016, export values were $2.90 billion, import values were $0.25 billion and net export values were $2.65 billion.

Regional Export

Electricity trade typically occurs in a north-south direction, across the boundary between the U.S. and Canada along international power lines. Generally, the distances between Canadian generation and U.S. demand regions are shorter than the distances between generation and demand regions from one province to another. Therefore, larger amounts of electricity flow internationally rather than inter-provincially.

Figure 3 illustrates the flow of gross electricity exports from Canadian provinces to the following U.S. geographical regions: the West, Midwest, and East. The U.S. East is further divided into the PJM (the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection), NYISO (the New York Independent System Operator) and ISO-NE (the Independent System Operator of New England) markets. The boundaries of these markets do not always coincide with the state boundaries used in CER statistics; therefore, data attributed to these markets is approximate. Note that some small trade flows have been omitted, including the electricity exported from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia.

Figure 3: Annual Electricity Export Flows

Source and Description

Source: CER Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of April 2021: Table 2A – Export Summary Report by Source; and Table 3A – Export Sales Summary Report by Destination.

Figure Description: Figure 3 shows the major flows of electricity exported from Canadian provinces to five U.S. geographical regions (gross exports): the West, Midwest, and the East, which is further divided up into the PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) Interconnection, the NYISO (New York Independent System Operator) and the ISO-NE (the Independent System Operator of New England). The left side of the figure shows the provinces that exported (sold) electricity to the U.S. The right side shows the U.S. region that imported (purchased) those electricity exports.

In 2020, the following regions received Canada’s exported electricity:

  • the U.S. West received 17%
  • the U.S. Midwest received 27%
  • the PJM region, in the east, received nearly 0%
  • the ISO-NE region, in the east, received 28%
  • the NYISO region, in the east, received 28%

The U.S. Northeast, a relatively small region buys the majority of Canadian exports, the bulk of which is shared between the ISO-NE and NYISO markets. This is due to Quebec’s relatively cheap and abundant hydroelectric resources, and is made possible by the extensive grid interconnection that exists between these regions.

Prices

Figure 4 shows the average export and import prices since 2010. The Canadian monthly weighted average export price peaked in January 2014 at $87.23 per MW.h. The Canadian monthly weighted average import price peaked in January 2014 at $99.05 per MW.h. Seasonal price volatility and weather in some years affected certain prices more significantly than others.

Figure 4: Monthly Electricity Trade Prices

Source and Description

Source: CER Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of April 2021: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary.

Figure Description: This figure shows the average export and import prices from 2010 to 2020 for all of Canada and by region. The ‘West’ includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The ‘East’ includes Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Canadian electricity exports prices peaked in January 2014, when they reached $87.23/MW.h, and import prices peaked at the same time reaching $99.05/MW.h. In 2020, export prices ranged from $28.15/MW.h and $46.78/MW.h. Import prices in 2020 ranged from $14.52/MW.h to $45.34/MW.h.

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