Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape – Energy Market Analysis

The Renewables Challenge

Two children, a boy and girl, hold up a solar panel in a field of grass

A human hand spills biomass pellets into a large sack

Continued renewable growth in Canada is facing challenges. Canadian electricity prices are among the lowest in the world, and although costs decreased for solar and wind power due to technological advances and large-scale production, it is still difficult for these relatively expensive renewable sources to compete for market share in many areas.

 

Projects can face public criticism and approval delays. Obtaining approval to build new projects can be difficult and sometimes projects face staunch opposition from local landowners. Citizens may also be concerned about effects such as bird and bat strikes for wind turbines, flooding or river impacts for dams, and impact on wildlife habitat from large solar projects.

 

Renewables add operating complexities to power grids. Solar and wind power are intermittent resources that generate power only when the sun shines and the wind blows.

 

To keep an electricity grid operating reliably, supply must match demand every second. This means solar and wind require back-up sources which reduce the appeal and cost-competitiveness of renewables.

 

Canadian energy demand is generally flat. Growth in renewables generally occurs as replacements for existing generation rather than in response to new demand. This occurred to an extent over the last decade as coal-fired generation was mandatorily phased out and replaced with renewables in Ontario.

Data issues

Data in this report was derived from:

  • Statistics Canada
  • Open Government (a portal that provides access to the Government of Canada’s searchable open data and open information)
  • Provincial agencies
  • Provincial utilities and system operators

Ontario is the only province with significant solar capacity. Total capacity of utility interconnected PV systems in other provinces and territories adds up to less than 2% of the Canadian total (see Photovoltaic Technology Status and Prospects Canadian Annual Report 2015 for detailed numbers) and generation data is not available. As a result, only Ontario’s solar capacity and generation data is included in the report. Small PV capacity figures for other provinces and territories are not listed but are included in capacity totals.

Accurate and detailed data on renewables is difficult to obtain. When values are small, the data might be aggregated for ease of reporting or omitted from reports for confidentiality. For example, when only one or two biomass facilities or wind facilities operate in an area, the generation data is not published.

The NEB used the best available data for this report, but it is likely that some data is absent. When necessary, estimates or older data was used.

For data questions or suggestions, please e-mail renewables@nebone.gc.ca

 

 

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