Problems Surface with Reporting on Renewables in Canada

Significant variations in the output of wind and solar energy are noted on three official sites.

A number of problems have been identified with inconsistent reporting of the electrical output from renewable energy technologies in Canada.

Last month, the canadian association for renewable energies analyzed data from Statistics Canada to show that the total output from solar PV in 2013 had declined 7.6% from 2012, despite major capacity additions in the province of Ontario. The generation from wind turbines increased 3%, which was lower than the 6.6% increase in output from nuclear reactors.

"Those percentages were very disturbing and contrary to what we expected," explains Bill Eggertson of we c.a.r.e. "So we dug deeper into official sources of energy information."

Eggertson's analysis also showed that total electrical output in 2011 from wind turbines was 7,563 GWh, 55 GWh from solar PV (reported in Ontario only) and 26 GWh from tidal, while hydro dams generated 372,778 GWh and nuclear output was 90,034 GWh.

By comparison, statistics released from the International Energy Agency (of which Canada, as a member, is responsible for supplying the official data on output) reports that wind generated 10,187 GWh, solar produced 260 GWh and tidal was 26 GWh for 2011, while hydro generated 375,797 GWh and nuclear produced 93,589 GWh.

The estimates for hydraulic and nuclear are within 1% and 4% respectively, but the annual generation from wind turbines was over-stated by 35% and by 370% for solar PV. The two data for tidal output were identical.

The website produced by Natural Resources Canada for the 2013 meeting of provincial energy ministers claims that 2011 output from hydro was 372,000 GWh and 88,000 GWh from nuclear, while wind was 10,100 GWh. No data are provided for output from solar PV or tidal on the NRCan site.

"Significant investment decisions and policy positions are based on statistics," adds Eggertson. "If the public data for renewable energy are off by a factor of four, what impact does this have on Canada and our call to transition to greener and more sustainable energy sources?"

The three sites are accessible at:

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