2012 Electricity Exports and Imports Summary

  2012 2011 2010 2009 2008[*]
Quantities (TW.h)
Exports (Sales) 57.6 51.1 43.6 51.2 55.5
Imports (Purchases) 10.8 14.4 18.6 17.5 23.3
Net Exports 46.8 36.7 25.0 33.7 32.2
Average Value (Cdn$/MW.h) excludes capacity charges
Exports (Sales) 31.49 38.07 43.81 42.54 64.87
Imports (Purchases) 20.05 25.74 34.95 37.34 56.33
Difference 11.44 12.33 8.86 5.20 8.54
Value (Cdn$ billions)
Exports (Sales) 1.9 2.0 2.0 2.4 3.8
Imports (Purchases) 0.2 0.4 0.7 0.7 1.3
Net Value 1.7 1.6 1.3 1.7 2.5

Source: National Energy Board (NEB) international trade statistics ([*] revised)

  • Prices have fallen substantially for both imports and exports over the last five years.
  • With the exception of 2009, the relative difference between those prices, hovering around the ten dollar mark, has remained more or less constant. Since export prices are typically higher than import prices, revenue can be earned by exporting when prices are high (on peak) and importing when prices are low (off peak), subject to system requirements and capacity.

Volumes

Figure 1: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports (Sales), 2003-2012

Figure 1: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports (Sales), 2003-2012

Source: NEB

  • In 2012, Canada exported 57.6 TW.h of electricity. This is an all-time high, and is 6.5 TW.h or 13 per cent more than 2011 exports.
  • Historically, the provinces that have exported large amounts of power are those with hydro-based generation. High export years typically coincide with high precipitation years, when there is hydro power surplus to domestic needs, as was the case in 2012.

Figure 2: Annual Canadian Electricity Imports (Purchases), 2003-2012

Figure 2: Annual Canadian Electricity Imports (Purchases), 2003-2012

Source: NEB

  • In 2012, Canada imported 10.8 TW.h of electricity. This is 3.6 TW.h, or 25 per cent, less than in 2011.
  • Imports of electricity in 2012 were the lowest in over a decade, 43 per cent lower than the ten year average.
  • A slow recovery from the economic downturn has resulted in low continental electricity demand. Nationally, Canada is only now returning to pre-2009 electricity consumption levels. As Canadian supply is fairly strong overall, Canada’s import needs were lower.
  • Of the 10.8 TW.h imported into Canada in 2012, British Columbia (B.C) imported over 8 TW.h, or almost 75 per cent, of all imports. However, during that same period, B.C. also exported almost 11 TW.h.

Figure 3: Annual Canadian Electricity Net Exports, 2003-2012

Figure 3: Annual Canadian Electricity Net Exports, 2003-2012

Source: NEB

  • With record high exports of 58 TW.h and record low imports of 11 TW.h, net exports of electricity in 2012 increased to 46.8 TW.h, an all-time high. This is almost 30 per cent higher than 2011 net export volumes and 80 per cent higher than the 25.8 TW.h ten-year average.
  • Supply-demand conditions, in addition to high Canadian reservoir levels in both 2011 and 2012, resulted in record Canadian net-exports in 2012.

Figure 4.1: Gross Electricity Exports - Historical Quantities by Region from Canada to the Continental United States

Figure 4.1: Gross Electricity Exports - Historical Quantities by Region from Canada to the Continental United States

Source: NEB

  • Declining Canadian exports from 2008 to 2010, to both the West and the Northeast, reflected slow economic activity and electricity requirements in those regions followed by a recovery in 2011 and 2012. Exports to the Midwest are not following this trend, primarily as a result of major regional growth in generating capacity.
  • The Northeast received 34 TW.h, or just below 60 per cent of all Canadian exports in 2012. This represents an increase of about 25 per cent from 2011.
  • Canadian sales of electricity into the Midwest have been consistently declining since 2009. Exports to the Midwest were 12.6 TW.h, or 22 per cent, of Canadian exports in 2012. This represents a decrease of 11 per cent from 2011.

Figure 4.2: Gross Electricity Exports - Historical Quantities by Region from Canada to the Northeastern United States

Figure 4.2: Gross Electricity Exports - Historical Quantities by Region from Canada to the Northeastern United States

Source: NEB

  • The northeastern United States (U.S.) is the largest recipient of Canadian electricity exports, the majority of which is shared between the New England and New York markets.
  • New England received 15.5 TW.h, or 27 per cent, of total Canadian exports in 2012 (an increase of 1.5 TW.h, compared to 2011).
  • New York received 16.2 TW.h, or 28 per cent, of total Canadian exports in 2012 (an increase of just over 4 TW.h, compared to 2011).
  • Canadian sales of electricity into all three northeastern U.S. markets have been increasing fairly steadily since 2010.

Prices and Values

Figure 5: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports, Imports and Export Values, 2008-2012

Figure 5: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports, Imports and Export Values, 2008-2012

Source: NEB

  • Although the net quantity of electricity exports has continued to increase, prices in export markets are lower when compared against historical values. For example, in 2008, exports of just over 55 TW.h were valued at $3.8 billion, whereas in 2012 exports of nearly 58 TW.h were valued at only $1.9 billion.
  • Continental U.S. electricity prices have been low since the 2008 financial crisis and dipped again in 2012. The 2012 decline is attributable primarily to low natural gas prices. Natural gas is a key fuel for U.S. electric generation.
  • Both the quantity and value of imports have declined since 2008 (see Figure 5 above and the table at the beginning of this document).

Commentary and Outlook

The 2012 Canadian electricity market was characterized by high exports, low imports as well as low prices.

  • A slow recovery from the economic downturn, resulting in low continental electricity consumption, has given rise to surplus generating capacity in some markets.
  • Many provinces have high reserve margins, such as the hydro producing provinces of Manitoba and Quebec as well as Ontario with its abundance of nuclear resources. Other areas have, at times, faced tighter supply situations, such as Alberta and British Columbia.
  • The significant increase in shale gas development is contributing to keeping natural gas prices low, and there is an abundance of supply available for gas-fired generation.
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