2013 Electricity Exports and Imports Summary

  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Volumes (TW.h)
Exports (Sales) 51.2 43.6 51.1 57.6 62.6
Imports (Purchases) 17.5 18.6 14.4 10.9 10.7
Net Exports 33.7 25.0 36.7 46.7 51.9
Value (Cdn$ billions) NB: Including capacity and energy charges
Exports (Sales) 2.4 2.0 2.0 1.9 2.5
Imports (Purchases) 0.7 0.7 0.4 0.2 0.4
Net Revenue 1.7 1.3 1.6 1.7 2.1

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • Export volumes, (both export sales and net exports), have increased for three consecutive years and are now at an all-time high.
  • Net revenue has also increased from 1.9 billion in 2012 to 2.4 billion in 2013 but has yet to reach pre-recession levels. Québec, Ontario and Manitoba earned over 90 per cent of the net revenue in 2013.
  • Although record sales volumes have not translated into record earnings, the value of export sales increased by more than 25 per cent over 2012 levels and reached the highest level in four years in 2013.

Volumes

Figure 1: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports (Sales), 2004-2013

Figure 1: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports (Sales), 2004-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • In 2013, Canadian electricity exports totaled almost 63 TW.h. This all-time high is 4.7 TW.h or about 9 per cent higher than 2012 exports.
  • Total annual quantities of electricity exports to the U.S. have varied significantly. Over the last decade, gross electricity exports ranged between approximately 33 TW.h and 63 TW.h annually, averaging about 50 TW.h annually.
  • Historically, provinces exporting large amounts of power are those with hydro-based generation. High export years typically coincide with high precipitation years. In 2013, precipitation was high in most of those provinces.
  • From 2012 to 2013 exports increased significantly from most provinces. Exports from Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba increased respectively to 27 TW.h (up 12.5%), 16.7 TW.h (up 21%) and 9.9 TW.h (up 24%). New Brunswick exports, although small, increased significantly from 0.8 TW.h to 2 TW.h (up 150%), following the restart of Point Lepreau nuclear station in late 2012.
  • Exports from British Columbia (B.C.) decreased by 35% from 10.8 TW.h in 2012 to 7 TW.h in 2013.

Figure 2: Annual Canadian Electricity Imports (Purchases), 2004-2013

Figure 2: Annual Canadian Electricity Imports (Purchases), 2004-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • Continuing the trend of the last few years, imports remained low in 2013 with Canada importing less than 11 TW.h of electricity. A slow U.S. recovery from the economic downturn resulted in low electricity demand. Likewise, Canada has not yet returned to pre-2009 electricity consumption levels. As Canadian supply was fairly strong overall, Canada’s import needs were lower.
  • Again the lowest in over a decade, imports were 40 per cent lower than the 10-year average of 17.7 TW.h. and about 55 per cent lower than the all-time high of 23.6 TW.h in 2003.
  • Canadian provinces have a greater capacity to exchange electricity with American states along north-south interconnections than between neighbouring 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. when domestic supply is limited or transmission capacity to other Canadian jurisdictions is constrained.
  • In 2013, B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan were net importers of power from the United States. B.C. imported almost 8.5 TW.h, or almost 80 per cent of the 10.7 TW.h imported into Canada in 2013. The majority of that was offset however as B.C. also exported over 7 TW.h during that same period. Despite B.C. being a net importer in 2013, the province earned more money from its electricity exports ($308 million) than it paid for the imports ($258 million).

Figure 3: Annual Canadian Electricity Net Exports, 2004-2013

Figure 3: Annual Canadian Electricity Net Exports, 2004-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • Net exports (exports less imports) of electricity in 2013 rose to a record 52 TW.h, with record high exports of 63 TW.h and record low imports of 11 TW.h. This is more than 10 per cent higher than 2012 net export volumes and 70 per cent higher than the 31 TW.h ten-year average.
  • Although gross exports averaged about 50 TW.h annually in the last ten years, net electricity exports averaged just over 30 TW.h over the same period.
  • Supply-demand conditions in 2013 resulted in record Canadian net-exports reaching an electricity net-trade value of approximately C$2 billion. Record net exports did not result in record net-trade value because of lower electricity prices in U.S. markets.
  • B.C. trades significant amounts of electricity. Although the province imported more electricity than it exported in 2013, it earned more in export revenue than it paid for imports. 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.

Figure 4.1: Gross Electricity Exports from Canada - by U.S. Region, 2009-2013

Figure 4.1: Gross Electricity Exports from Canada - by U.S. Region, 2009-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • Declining Canadian exports in 2009 and 2010, reflected slow U.S. economic activity and low electricity requirements. This was followed by a recovery in both the U.S. Midwest and the U.S. Northeast. Although exports to the Midwest continued to decline through 2012, that trend appears to change in 2013.
  • The Northeast received just under 40 TW.h, or almost 65 per cent of all Canadian exports in 2013. Exports to this region increased by about 15 per cent from 2012.
  • In 2013 Canadian sales of electricity into the Midwest increased for the first time in five years. Exports to the Midwest were 16.2 TW.h, just over 25 per cent of Canadian exports in 2013. Exports to the Midwest increased by almost 25 per cent from 2012.

Figure 4.2: Gross Electricity Exports from Canada to the Northeastern United States, 2009-2013

Figure 4.2: Gross Electricity Exports from Canada to the Northeastern United States, 2009-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

Note: PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection), ISO New England (ISO-NE) and New York ISO (NYISO) operate competitive wholesale electricity markets in Northeast United States. Because market boundaries do not always coincide with categories used in NEB statistics, data is approximate.

  • The northeastern United States (U.S.) is the largest recipient of Canadian electricity exports, the majority of which is shared between the New England (ISO-NE) and New York (NYISO) markets.
  • New England received 18.9 TW.h, or 30 per cent, of total Canadian exports in 2013 (an increase of almost 3.5 TW.h, compared with 2012).
  • New York received 18.7 TW.h, or just under 30 per cent, of total Canadian exports in 2013 (an increase of 2.2 TW.h, compared with 2012).
  • Canadian sales of electricity into New England and New York have been increasing steadily since 2010.

Quantities and revenue

Figure 5: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports, Imports and Export Revenue, 2008-2013

Figure 5: Annual Canadian Electricity Exports, Imports and Export Revenue, 2008-2013

Source: NEB international trade statistics (31 March 2015)

  • 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 2013 exports of nearly 63 TW.h were valued at only $2.5 billion. However, export revenue has shown a marked increase for the first time since 2008.
  • Continental U.S. electricity prices have been low since the 2008 financial crisis. In addition, low natural gas prices resulting from increased shale gas production led to a decrease in electricity prices. Natural gas is a key fuel for U.S. electric generation and continues to increase its market share.

Commentary

The 2013 Canadian electricity market was again characterized by high exports, low imports, and record net exports.

  • Many provinces have high reserve margins. This means they have more supply than needed on a day to day basis, above the standard 12 to 15 per cent emergency buffer. Examples are the hydro producing provinces of Manitoba and Quebec as well as Ontario with its abundance of nuclear resources. Lower continental electricity consumption following the 2008 economic downturn has given rise to, or increased, surplus generating capacity in some markets.
  • The amount of surplus also changes year-to-year in response to a variety of factors including domestic demand, capacity additions and retirements, outages and precipitation levels which impact hydroelectric generation.
  • Canadian electricity consumption increased slightly in 2013, reaching the highest level since 2009. At the same time, electricity supply continued to expand. For example, the amount of new wind capacity added in 2013 reached more than 1 000 MW in Quebec and more than 400 MW in Ontario.
  • Supply in Ontario also increased after the restart, in late 2012, of two units at Bruce nuclear plant for a combined capacity of 1 500 MW. With these additions, Ontario’s electricity supply remains abundant despite the loss of approximately 3 000 MW of coal-fired capacity following the shut-down of Lambton and Nanticoke plants in 2013.
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