Renewable Energy is Declining in Canada

The share of renewable energy in Canada continues to decline as a percentage of total energy consumption, in sharp contrast to the growth rates in most developed nations.

The share of renewable energy in Canada continues to decline, according to data released today by the World Bank.


Canada sourced 20.6% of its total final energy consumption (TFEC) from renewables in 1990, which declined slightly to 20.5% by 2000 and to 19.9% by 2010, notes ‘Global Tracking Framework.' The analysis was prepared by the World Bank as a follow-up to the 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, where world leaders called for a doubling in the share of renewables in global energy by 2030.

Canada's share from renewables declined despite its significant contribution from hydroelectricity and forestry biomass. By comparison, the United States increased its share of renewables from 4.2% in1990 to 5.4% in 2000 and 7.6% in 2010, while the United Kingdom went from 0.7% to 1.0% to 3.2%, and Germany went from 2.1% to 3.8% to 10.8% over the same period. Iceland scored among the highest, going from 62.2% to 66.1% to 76.7% of its TFEC from renewables.

On a regional basis, North America went 6.0% to 7.1% to 9.0%, while Europe went 8.1% to 9.4% to 14.1%, and the world went 16.6% to 17.4% to 18.0%, largely because of the slow growth in traditional biomass in developing nations.

Last year, the UN General Assembly announced a ‘Decade of Sustainable Energy for All' that would stretch from 2014 to 2024, and the Secretary General launched the SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy for All) initiative. Goals to increase energy efficiency are key to making the renewable energy objective more feasible, by slowing the growth in global demand for energy.

The amount of energy for green power (electricity), green fuels (transportation) and green heat (heating) has expanded rapidly since 1990, with a compound annual growth rate of 1.5% during the first decade and 2.4% during the last. Global consumption of renewables grew from 40 exajoules (EJ) in 1990 to 60 EJ in 2010 but, as consumption of renewables rose, global TFEC grew at 1.1% and 2.0% during the two decades. "As a result, the share of renewable energy in the total final energy consumption remained relatively stable, growing from 16.6% in 1990 to 18.0% in 2010," the report notes.

The canadian association for renewable energies (we c.a.r.e.) has long warned that the absence of an energy strategy in Canada will impede the relative share of renewables, and it formulated the Green Heat partnership to promote the use of solar thermal, geothermal and biomass to provide more low-grade space conditioning energy.

Most of the renewable energy in Canada and other developed nations is used to generate electricity, and green power increased from 2,300 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 1990 to 4,160 TWh in 2010 ... an increase that is equivalent to the total combined electricity output of Russia and India. Global electricity generation doubled in the 20-year period, from 11,800 TWh in 1990 to 21,400 TWh in 2010, equivalent to the combined electricity generation of China, the US and India.

By 2011, renewables were generating 20% of the world's electricity, with 80% of all green power from large hydro facilities. Of the 18% of world energy from renewables, biomass accounted for 13.3%, hydro for 3.1%, biofuels 0.8%, wind 0.3%, biogas 0.2%, solar 0.2%, geothermal 0.2%, waste 0.1% and marine accounted for 0.01% of the total.

Most non-biomass renewable energy has been produced and consumed by high-income and emerging economies (China, the US, Brazil, Germany, India, Italy, Spain) and the technology of choice differs among countries, with China focusing on hydropower; the US on liquid biofuels; Brazil, Germany, and India on biomass; and Spain on wind power.

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