Renewable Energy Declines in Canada

Despite the record installation of wind turbines across Canada last year, electrical output from this technology declined 1.5%, according to Statistics Canada. Solar panels generated 4.8% more power last year, but that follows a 7.6% decline in 2013.

Canada continues to lag the industrialized world in a key energy statistic.


Despite the installation of record capacity for wind turbines and solar panels, the total power output of electricity from these renewable energy technologies is declining.

The decline from wind turbines was 1.5%, down to 8,886 million kilowatt-hours (m-kWh) in 2014 following a 3.2% increase in 2013, according to the annual summary from Statistics Canada. Solar PV increased its power output by 4.8% last year to 251 m-kWh, which was not enough to reverse its 7.6% decline in the year prior.

The federal summary tracks the amount of electricity that is generated and reported by provincial power utilities … not the capacity that is more commonly cited by industry officials.

Total power output from all generating sources across Canada declined 1.7% last year to 600,544 m-kWh, with a drop of 3% from hydroelectric dams and 2% from combustion facilities (mainly due to the closure of coal-fired generating plants in Ontario). By contrast, power output from nuclear reactors increased 4.1%.

Wind and solar generate 1.5% and 0.04% of Canada's grid electricity, according to Statistics Canada, compared with 63% from hydro and 17% from nuclear reactors. The tidal bore on the east coast continues to experience problems, no deep-rock geothermal has yet been commissioned in Canada, and the country's first concentrated solar facility will start soon in Alberta.

By comparison, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that output from non-hydro renewables (including numerous geothermal and concentrating solar systems in that country) increased 11% last year to 281,060 m-kWh … 30 times the output from all green power sources in Canada. Renewables generate 7% of that country's electricity, compared with 39% from coal, 28% from gas and 20% from nuclear.

The International Energy Agency says global electricity generation last year at 10,150,000 m-kWh, of which non-hydro renewables contributed 7% ... up from 6% in 2013.

Most countries do not quantify the energy contribution from off-grid green power (remote PV panels or wind turbines) nor do they calculate the level of green heat (space conditioning and water heating from wood stoves, solar thermal collectors, ground source heat pumps, etc). In Canada, these non-electric applications consume 80% of a home's stationary energy, compared with 20% for the electric "plug load" used to power lights and appliances.

Other than Canada, few countries classify "large hydro" as a renewable energy.

"If the United States and the rest of the world can increase output from their green power facilities by double digits each year, why is Canada's output declining?," asks Bill Eggertson of the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies (we c.a.r.e.) in Ottawa. "In a period of rapid installation of new capacity from very low levels of initial penetration, annual percentage increases should be extremely high ... not negative."

"Canada is missing the ‘green revolution' that receives lip service from so many politicians and consumers," explains Eggertson. "We focus on green power where GHG emissions continue to drop due to carbon-free generation from large hydro and nuclear, but we are missing the huge potential from green heat where we continue to burn carbon fuels to heat our homes and buildings."

"We are failing to succeed in our area of focus, so Canada must introduce stronger measures to catch our trading partners which are moving so well towards a sustainable future," he says. "This may require a national effort to increase the use of green heat, similar to the Directive passed by the European Union a few years ago."

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