Canadian Renewable Energy Report Card

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Yesterday we talked a bit about a potential renewable energy record in Ontario. The ensuing discussion turned to comparing the various provinces in Canada. This included how the country is doing as a whole, and how a high-watermark-style record doesn’t really capture how much various power sources contribute to Canada’s renewable power generation. This got me thinking.

I decided to dig into the progress of my large and cold nation, to discover how much renewable energy we generate, and how various technologies are growing. To do this, I rely on the IEA data supplied by NRCan.

Canadian Renewable Energy Market Share

First, the good news:

Turns out Canada has a lot of hydro resources. In the last decade, hydro has averaged around 60% of market share in Canada. That’s pretty epic! Almost entirely because of these renewable energy resources, Canada produced almost three times as much renewable energy in 2012 than Germany did.

Canadian Renewable Energy Market Share

You can see in the graph, somewhere around 2005, we start making some progress. Prior to that, it’s basically just hydro bouncing around depending on how much rain we got that year. But there is a clear trend starting around 2005 and going forward to 2012. What’s going on there? Let’s dig into that!

Solar Market Share

The obvious next place to check is solar. Solar has been doing fairly well, right? In fact, solar has gone from a mere 16 GWh in 2000 to 332 GWh in 2012. That’s a 2000% increase in 12 years! However, placed in context against the entirety of Canadian consumption, it’s relatively trivial, unfortunately. Here’s a graph of solar market share in Canada:

Solar Power Market Share

So, while the overall market share is low, it is growing very, very fast. You can clearly see the knee in the graph in 2008. Once solar hits grid parity in Canada, there will be another knee in that graph, and solar will take off with real market share.

So, if solar doesn’t explain the gain in renewables, what does?

Wind Power

Turns out, the real success story for renewable energy in Canada is wind power. Wind power has grown from 264 GWh in 2000 to 11,310 GWh in 2012, a 4000% increase in 12 years! Furthermore, that is enough to make a significant difference in the amount of renewable energy Canada generates. Here’s the market share of wind from 2000 to 2012:

Wind Power Market Share

Wind has gone from a trivial amount in 2000 to nearly 2% of all electricity generated in Canada in the span of 12 years. Furthermore, the curve it shows is exponential! Wind power is growing massively, and we have every reason to believe that trend will continue.


Canada has a lot of renewable energy, but that’s mostly because of a lot of awesome hydro resources. That being said, we’re starting to see significant growth in wind power, and solar power is starting to take off. As solar and wind continue to fall in price, we can expect that the solar and wind market share will continue to grow aggressively.

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18 thoughts on “Canadian Renewable Energy Report Card

  • Solar in Canada is already a cheaper “fuel” for electric cars compared to powering the same type of car on gas.

    I’ve blogged on this:

    It’s that solar still has to compete with technologies and industries like Nuclear and Coal which received massive subsidies (such as the Ontario debt retirement charge) in the name of providing big GW nameplate power.

    Nuclear in Ontario is asking to raise their rates to 8.5c/kWh (this is the rate before transmission) to accommodate their refurbishing. At 8.5c, then needing to add in the massive sunk costs in the huge transmission lines to Bruce and other sites, distributed solar on roofs which does not require transmission lines is absolutely going to be competing on price over the next few years.

    • That’s for sure.

      Even wind at a FiT price of 11.5c/kWh and falling will be competitive in the next few years.

    • yes, but! The but is that those Nuclear costs are sunk costs, someone has to pay them even if the plants are closed.

      • Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Those transmissions lines and transformers don’t maintain themselves…

        Ontario has spent $2 billion over the past few years on transmission and transformer projects to keep the system stable.

        Local solar can offset some of these costs.
        Conservation does even better, removes costs!

  • Enormous wind resource on the Atlantic coast of Canada could power Ontario and give the maritimes an income to replace the cod. The Rockies have some off the chart wind as well. Alberta and Saskatchewan could be powered from there.

    • Canada has incredible wind resources off its west coast.

      Floaters. Debuting off Coos Bay soon.

  • Great article, Stephen! If you want to extend this series to other countries (Australia, UK, US, Japan, etc.) I’ve collated IEA data at:
    Your fellow EV evangelizing Canadian engineer,

      • Me! Where I live I can walk around the corner and look out at a large wind farm churning away in the distance. My province Ontario is trying to do its bit. Nevertheless, I tend to agree with some of Bob Fearn’s critique above. There are often CO2 issues with hydro that don’t always get discussed and a general apathy ranging to antipathy directed at wind and solar is all too easy to find here. On climate change and FF use, PM Harper has been almost as bad a Tony Abbott. Plus Canadians have been pretty slow on the uptake of EVs.

        I think renewable awareness is growing in the public consciousness but we are nowhere near Northern Europe in that regard. Ontario though, is trying to turn hard for more wind and solar.

      • I’m Canuck but forgetting rapidly. 8 years in southern California will do that. I’m deploying small tracking PV installations around the house. One runs the gate and lights out front, it’s 60 watts on a swivel, I move it to follow the sun by hand. Americans laugh at me….”look at the stupid Canuck, he thinks you have to move the panels by yourself….”

        I drive a Chevy. My Spark EV was, and is the most efficient EV out there, don’t tell Chevrolet that, they don’t seem to remember they build them. Up to 60 (Miles)ph, it’s faster than my neighbor’s porsche 911 on one side, but isn’t tested against the 427 Cobra (a real one) my other neighbor has. That’s Shelby Cobra. My spark gets rubber right up to 50 mph, mostly because it’s light. Put a couple of bags of cement on the floor and it will go even faster. Very soon they’ll be putting two motors in EV’s, one over each axle (Tesla X) and then one for each wheel. Try plowing with real 4 wheel drive.
        My love of electric cars started in West End Ottawa, as a kid going to Broadview, we had a slot racing club at my house…..

  • Hey Stephen Canada is doing a crappy job with renewables!!

    We like to ignore all the carbon produced when we operate a zillion trucks moving all the material required for a large dam. And of course we forget about all the carbon released by the decaying trees that we flooded because we were too lazy to actually use the trees. And then there is the carbon that is not stored in the forest that would be growing if the damn dam was not built in the first place.

    Here in BC solar is zip to nil which is the same as the government support for this energy source. Solar is not “relatively trivial” in Canada, it is trivial. Wind power is not growing exponentially, as your graph shows and it is not “massive”. How can less than 2% of something be massive?

    Canada, like every other country, has all the renewable energy it needs however Canadians are clued out and apathetic towards renewable energy. The fact that our governments throw almost $40 billion a year at the fossil fuels gangs, and there is virtually no opposition to this, shows you how hopeless Canada currently is energy wise.

    Pretending that we are going a good job is not helpful.

    • I modeled the wind data, and it fits an exponential curve quite nicely. Didn’t include it in the posted graph as it made it too busy.

      Dams aren’t carbon neutral, but they are better than any fossil fuel source. Solar and wind don’t have a zero carbon footprint either.

      2% and growing exponentially is pretty significant.

      • we are trading coal for china wind turbines great work

        • I agree. It is great work.

          We get the benefit of the clean air, and we get to leave that coal in the ground.

          Oh, and the GE turbines favoured here are built in the U.S. and Germany.

  • In Ontario there is a lot of hydro electric power generated. British Columbia (BC) has its fair share. However, the hydro electric power scams in BC have burdened its public (4.5 million) with a future utility bill of $50 Billion. Insiders, which includes politicians, set-up Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects on local rivers. These fish habitat run-of-the-river environmental catastrophes were sold to the public, as green energy. And then they
    obligated the utility-payers to $0.70/ Kw debt, for decades to come. Where there better choices – yes? Wind Power already makes these old insider-projects look extremely expensive. But, do the Politicians make the British Colombians aware of this debacle – no? The whole run-of-the-river model gets exacerbated with dwindling snow-packs in the Mountains – less water in the rivers. I’m sure this Government (Crown Corporation – BC Hydro) hides these accounting details in some off-book accounting ledger and declares the IPP as an asset verses a liability. Our American friends know the drill. So, we have a lot of the same non-science crooks North of the 49th Parallel, as well.

  • Well old dams are there, new dams are limited and a newly proposed one in B.C. (site C) is facing some resistance. The Green party member in the B.C. legislature is Nobel Prize winning Andrew Weaver, he says Wind Turbine are a better option than hydro…I take his word for it.

    • we are trading coal for china wind turbines great work

  • This local isolated BC Interior government recently spent $85k of its climate change reserve fund towards Ephesus LED lights for the ‘hockey’ arena. They also had a $50k Hockeyville grant to pay for same.
    This town also has the ‘award for the worst maintained sidewalks’ in the winter because of “two bad winters in a row”. Read confounding accounting practices.
    The info graphic chart to show governments’ involvement with energy is beyond my grasp. It would look like a tangled 3D mess of coloured spaghetti statistics but if it was 4D I could tell you where this all most likely going.
    Meanwhile glaring social issues are cut out of the budgets.

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