Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Two-thirds of electricity in Canada now comes from renewable energy

Windmills saw the biggest growth in the decade, with output increasing to more than 28,500 gigawatt hours in 2015 from less than 2,000 gigawatt hours in 2005.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Two-thirds of Canada's electricity supply now comes from renewable sources such as hydro and wind power, the National Energy Board said in a report released Tuesday.

Renewable energy production jumped 17 per cent between 2005 and 2015. The portion of all electricity in Canada generated by renewables is now 66 per cent, up from 60 per cent a decade earlier.

"I think people don't understand just how much of our generation is the renewables," said NEB chief economist Shelley Milutinovic. "Probably very few people would know Canada produces the second most hydro in the world."

Story continues below advertisement

In 2015, China produced 29 per cent of the world's hydroelectric power, followed by Canada at 10 per cent.

In terms of all renewable energy, Canada ranks fourth in production, behind China, the United States and Brazil.

Hydroelectricity accounts for the majority of renewable electricity, with 60 per cent of all electricity in Canada coming from hydro. Wind power accounted for 4.4 per cent, biomass power was 1.9 per cent and solar power was 0.5 per cent.

Biomass power comes from burning organic waste such as wood pellets or methane gas produced by landfills.

Non-renewable energy accounted for the rest, with 16 per cent coming from nuclear power, about 10 per cent from coal and nine per cent from natural gas.

Ontario fully phased out its coal plants in this decade, with the last one closing entirely in 2014, dropping coal's share of Canada's electrical supply to 10 per cent from 16 per cent.

Hydro generation grew eight per cent between 2005 and 2015 but its overall share of the power generated in Canada remained constant at 60 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

Wind power saw the biggest growth in the decade. In 2005 Canada produced less than 2,000 gigawatt hours of wind power, which accounted for just 0.5 per cent of all power. In 2015, it produced 20 times as much, more than 28,500 gigawatt hours, which amounted to 4.4 per cent of power generation.

A gigawatt hour of power is the equivalent of one million kilowatt hours. A kilowatt hour of power is the amount used to burn a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.

Canada is the seventh-largest producer of wind power in the world.

In 2005, Canada produced almost no solar power at all. In 2015 it produced more than 3,000 gigawatt hours. Ninety-eight per cent of all Canadian solar production is in Ontario, where financial incentives drove the installation of new solar power plants.

In 2015, Canada installed 600 megawatts of new solar capacity, the 10th largest increase in solar installations in the world. China, however, added 15,200 megawatts.

The cost of solar production is the main barrier to new installations.

Story continues below advertisement

Chris Barrington-Leigh, a professor at McGill University's School of Environment, has done an analysis of the potential for growth in renewable energy production in Canada, said 2015 was a record year for new installations of renewable energy around the world.

He called Canada's renewable growth "a good start" but said the aim is to get to 100 per cent.

Electricity generation was responsible for about 80 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. Hydro, wind and solar power do not produce emissions from generating electricity, although there are emissions associated with producing and installing the equipment.

Barrington-Leigh said Canada has a lot of land without a large population, which makes it an ideal country to be able to get to 100 per cent renewable energy.

The report notes the main barriers to expanding renewable energy is concern about the price for consumers, as well as reliability.

Report an error
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.