2016 Electricity Exports and Imports Summary

In 2016, Canadian electricity exports increased to record levels despite decreased export prices (Table 1). The previous all-time high for export sales was set in 2015 and before that, in 2013. In general, electricity trade levels are impacted by prices, regional supply factors such as surplus generation, supply outages, and precipitation levels; and regional demand factors such as seasonal and daily temperature variations and industrial-use patterns. For information about electricity markets 2016, refer to the electricity market snapshots on the NEB website.

Table 1: Summary of Trade

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Volumes (TW.h)

Exports (Sales) 57.6 62.6 58.4 68.3 73.1
Imports (Purchases) 10.9 10.7 12.8 8.7 9.3
Net Exports 46.8 51.9 45.6 59.5 63.8

Price [1] ($/MW.h)

Exports (Sales) 31.49 37.50 47.59 43.63 38.49
Imports (Purchases) 20.12 34.38 45.90 34.14 26.34

Value [2] ($ Billions)

Exports (Sales) 1.9 2.5 2.9 3.1 2.9
Imports (Purchases) 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.3
Net Value 1.7 2.1 2.3 2.8 2.7

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017.
Numbers may not add up due to rounding
[1] Prices exclude the capacity charge
[2] Values include capacity and energy charges

TW.h = Terrawatt hours
$/MW.h = Canadian dollars per megawatt hour
$ = Canadian dollars

Export and Import Volumes

Net Exports

Figure 1 shows electricity net export volumes increased 7 per cent in 2016, from 59.5 TW.h in 2015 to 63.8 TW.h.

Figure 1: Historical Electricity Trade Volumes

Figure 1: Historical Electricity Trade Volumes

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary

Exports

In 2016, export volumes were at record-high levels of 73.1 TW.h, surpassing last year’s record of 68.3 TW.h by 7%. With the exception of 2014, electricity exports have increased every year since 2010 (Figure 1).

Imports

In 2016, purchased electricity imports increased 7%, from 8.7 TW.h in 2015 to 9.3 Tw.h. However, imports remained relatively low compared to historical trends, and the import volumes of 8.7 TW.h in 2015 are the lowest in nearly 20 years. In general, electricity imports help avoid the costs of building additional generation that may sit idle at non peak times.

Figure 2 shows the electricity volumes traded monthly to and from Canada since 2014

Figure 2: Monthly Electricity Trade Volumes.

Figure 2: Monthly Electricity Trade Volumes

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary

Regional Export Volumes

Electricity trade typically occurs in a north-south direction, across the boundary between the U.S. and Canada along international power lines. Generally, the distances between Canadian generation and U.S. demand regions are shorter than the distances between Canadian provinces. Therefore, large electricity volumes flow internationally rather than inter-provincially.

Figure 3 depicts the flow of gross electricity exports from Canadian provinces to the following U.S. geographical regions: the West, Midwest, and East. The U.S. East region is further categorized into the following markets: PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) Interconnection, NYISO (New York Independent System Operator) and ISO-NE (the Independent System Operator of New England). The boundaries of these markets do not always coincide with the state boundaries used in NEB statistics; therefore, data attributed to these markets is approximate.

The left side of Figure 3 shows the provinces from which electricity was transmitted along international power lines. The right side shows the U.S. region that imported those electricity volumes, and the volume of electricity exported from Canada to the U.S., on a gross basis, is shown. Note that Figure 3 omits the trade flows that are too small to be shown, including all the electricity exports from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia; additionally, some of the exports from Ontario, Québec, and Newfoundland and Labrador are not shown.

Figure 3: Electricity Export Flows in 2016

Figure 3: Electricity Export Flows in 2016

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017: Table 3A – Export Sales Summary Report by Destination and Source

Figure 4 shows the electricity trends by U.S. region since 2012:

  • Electricity sales to the U.S. West increased 27%, from 10.9 in 2012 to 13.8 TW.h in 2016
  • Electricity sales to the U.S. Midwest increased 64%, from 12.6 to 20.7 TW.h
  • Electricity sales to the PJM region decreased 73%, from 2.4 to 0.6 TW.h
  • Electricity sales to the ISO NE region increased 14%, from 15.5 to 17.8 TW.h
  • Electricity sales to the NYISO region increased 25%, from 16.2 to 20.2 TW.h

Although the U.S. Northeast is a relatively small region, it buys the majority of Canadian exports, the bulk of which is shared between the ISO-NE and NYISO markets. Compared to 2012, the U.S. West and Midwest regions received considerably more Canadian electricity in 2016. The PJM region was the only region with decreasing electricity volumes from Canada since 2012.

Figure 4: Historical Electricity Exports by Region

Figure 4: Historical Electricity Exports by Region

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017: Table 3A – Export Sales Summary Report by Destination and Source

Values and Prices

The net electricity export value decreased from an all-time high of $2.8 billion in 2015 to $2.7 billion in 2016. Although export (and net export) volumes increased from the previous year, values (and prices) decreased. Prices in most of Canada’s traditional electricity export markets remain lower than historical values, with the exception of certain seasonal price volatility. Figure 5 shows the volume-weighted average export price peaked at $64.87 per MW.h in 2008. By comparison, the average price received for exports in 2016 was $38.49 per MW.h.

Figure 5: Historical Electricity Trade Values and Prices

Figure 5: Historical Electricity Trade Values and Prices

Source: NEB Commodity Tracking System Statistics as of 8 February 2017: Table 1 – Exports and Imports of Electricity Summary

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