Canada (2014)

Degree of reliance on imported energy: 

Despite being a net energy exporter, Canada also imports large amounts of energy products. It is both an importer and exporter of coal and petroleum because its major coal and oil fields are located in Western Canada, particularly in Alberta, far removed from its main population and industrial centres in Ontario and Quebec, and many of its oil refineries cannot handle the types of oil produced in Canada. It imports oil from offshore sources such as Venezuela and the Middle East into its Eastern provinces, while simultaneously exporting oil from its Western provinces into the United States.

Canada’s electricity flows are actively traded with the United States through the interconnection of the two networks in both economies. In 2010, Canada exported 43.6 TWh of electricity and imported 18.8 TWh, making Canada the world’s third largest exporter of electricity.

Main sources of Energy: 

In 2010, Canada’s domestic energy production reached nearly 399 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), with a predominance of fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas and coal represented the largest shares of Canada’s primary energy production, with 41%, 33% and 9%, respectively, while the remainder was made up by hydropower, other renewable sources and nuclear. On the other hand, since a large proportion of the energy produced is exported, Canada’s primary energy supply in 2010 totalled 253 Mtoe, equivalent to 63% of its production.

In 2011, Canada’s total electricity generation was 618 TWh with Quebec and Ontario producing about 57% of the electricity generated in the country. The generation mix varies by province and territory, with many jurisdictions meeting over 90% of their electricity demand with renewable electricity, while others rely on a mix of renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear generation. On a regional basis, renewable electricity generation accounts for over 52% of Western Canada’s generation, over 65% of Central Canada’s generation, and 72% of Atlantic Canada’s generation.

Nevertheless, hydropower plants continued to dominate electricity generation in Canada on a gross basis in 2010, at nearly 59%, followed by thermal, nuclear and other types of power generation. Canada is the world's third largest hydroelectricity producer after China and Brazil, with roughly 25 GW of additional capacity in various stages of project development by 2030. Moreover, if nuclear power is included, nearly 77% of Canada’s electricity generation does not emit greenhouse gases.



Extent of the network: 

Canada’s bulk transmission network consists of more than 160,000 kilometres of high voltage lines.

Canada has three power grids: the Western grid, the Eastern grid, and the Quebec grid, which includes Atlantic Canada. The border between the Eastern and Western grids is the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Canadian grids are also tied into the U.S. grids (the Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection and the Texas Interconnection). For example, the electricity grid in Alberta and British Columbia is part of the Western Interconnection in the United States.

Capacity concerns: 

Investment in Canada’s electrical grid was high in the 1970s and '80s, as power producers attempted to meet a significant growth in demand. The result was overbuilding, and supply overwhelmed demand. That helped to keep the cost of electricity low for several decades, but now major new investment is needed to replace worn out plants.

Canada’s Electricity Infrastructure: Building a Case for Investment, a study funded by the Canadian Electrical Association and conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, suggests that a total investment of $293.8 billion is necessary between now and 2030 to service old infrastructure and boost power generation from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass energy.  According to the report, the largest chunk of the recommended investment — $195.7 billion — is required for power generation, with another $62.3 billion required to improve the distribution system and $35.8 billion for transmission. The necessary investments in generation identified in the report include building new plants with renewable energy sources as well as refurbishing, repowering or retiring existing stations.

Potential for Renewable Energy: 

Canada is a world leader in the production and use of renewable energy, with renewable energy representing 17% of Canada’s total primary energy supply. In the electricity sector, hydroelectricity is the largest renewable energy source in Canada, accounting for approximately 60% of Canada’s electricity generation. Other non-hydro renewable energy sources, such as biomass, wind, tidal and solar, contribute to increasing this share by 3% to over 63%. When adding nuclear energy, over 77% of Canada’s electricity generation does not emit greenhouse gases. Canada is the world’s third largest producer of hydroelectricity, and it is positioned ninth globally in terms of wind energy installed capacity. Canada also has one of the largest tidal barrage power plants in the world – the 20 MW Annapolis tidal power plant in Nova Scotia.

Canada has plentiful solar energy resources, with the most extensive resources being found in southern Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies. The territories have a smaller potential, and less direct sunlight, because of their higher latitude.

With 559 MWp of installed photovoltaics in 2011, Canada ranked 14th among the world's countries. Ontario has a program of moving away from coal and promoting renewable resources which has led to a number of industrial-scale photovoltaic plants being built. Located in Sarnia, Ontario, the 97 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant was briefly the largest solar farm in the world (in October 2010) and can power more than 12,000 homes. Other plants include the 23.4 MW Arnprior Solar Generating Station and a 68 MW solar farm is in Sault Ste. Marie.

There is very little geothermal electricity generation in Canada at present but there is a potential for generating a substantial amount. The high-temperature sources can be used for generating electricity and the cooler sources can be used for local heating..

Wind Energy
Wind power has experienced strong growth in recent years. Over the projection period, it makes the largest contribution to non-hydro renewable growth. At the end of 2011, wind power generating capacity in Canada was 5,265 megawatts MW, providing some 2.3% of Canada's electricity demand. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta each had more than 1,000 MW of capacity. All provinces and territories, except Nunavut, had some commercial wind power in 2012.

Biomass/ Biogas
Canada’s biomass includes an abundance of sustainable, renewable, combustible and/or consumable vegetation and waste material, available Canada-wide. In a relatively energy-inefficient process, Canada is growing crops to produce ethanol as a vehicle fuel to replace oil. Canada has been producing ethanol from corn in Ontario and grain in the western provinces. As well as a fuel for light vehicles, biomass is being used to produce biodiesel and aviation fuel.

Hydroelectric power is the greatest source of power generation in Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba and Newfoundland-Labrador. All four provinces have extensive potential hydro power resources aggregating some 30.000 MWe. Some potential hydro power resources exist in northern Ontario and one on the Slave River in Alberta. Canadian-developed, high voltage direct current transmission may make these remote resources viable options.

Potential for Energy Efficiency: 



Much of the Canadian industry is public ownership with some notable exceptions. Much of the industry in Alberta is investor owned although EPCOR and ENMAX are important exceptions. Nova Scotia Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera, an investor-owned company. Parts of the industry in several provinces (e.g. Fortis BC, Newfoundland Power and Maritime Electric in PEI) are investor owned but Provincial Crown Corporations still dominate the generation and transmission components of the industry.

Within the category of public ownership, municipal ownership is prominent in several places most notably Ontario where utilities such as Toronto Hydro, Hydro Ottawa and Horizon Utilities are municipally owned. EPCOR and ENMAX in Alberta are owned respectively by the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary.

Gas & oil
Wellhead oil and natural gas prices in Canada have been fully deregulated since the Western Accord and the Agreement on Natural Gas Markets and Prices between the federal government and energy-producing provinces were agreed to in 1985. The agreements opened up the oil and gas markets to greater competition by permitting more exports, allowing users to buy directly from producers and unbundling production and marketing from transportation services. Oil and gas pipeline networks continue to be regulated as natural monopolies.

Structure / extent of competition: 

Two Canadian provinces together accounting for around half of Canadian power consumption have full wholesale and retail competition. Most other provinces have moved or are moving to some form of wholesale competition.

Province by Province Update

  • Wholesale and retail open access
  • Functional separation

British Columbia

  • Wholesale open access
  • Functional separation


  • Wholesale open access
  • Functional separation
  • First member of RTO

New Brunswick

  • Transmission wholesale and industrial retail open access 2003


  • Energy policies under review

Nova Scotia

  • New energy policy imminent in 2002


  • Wholesale and retail open access
  • Corporate separation of generation, transmission and system control functions

Prince Edward Island

  • Distribution network only


  • Wholesale open access
  • Functional separation
  • Wholesale competition for domestic Id > 165 TWh


  • Wholesale open access
  • Functional separation

In provinces with wholesale competition, a market operator ensures that adequate supplies of electricity are generated for the demand. In Ontario, this market operator is the Independent Electric System Operator (IESO). In Alberta, the market operator is the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

The Canadian industry was traditionally made up of integrated companies encompassing functions from generation through to the customer, although this is now changing in several jurisdictions. In many cases the integrated companies are increasingly functionally unbundled to accommodate wholesale competition. In several provinces, however, the various components are structurally distinct. This is true in Newfoundland where generation/transmission and distribution/retail are embodied in wholly separate entities. Most notably, in the two provinces which have moved to full retail competition (Ontario and Alberta) there is a great diversity of structural models with functions for the most part unbundled. In most provinces, it is emerging a number of independent power producers. This is especially true in Ontario and Alberta.

Existence of an energy framework and programmes to promote sustainable energy: 

Negotiations toward a Canadian energy strategy have been taking place through the Council of the Federation, an organization composed of Canada’s provincial and territorial governments.

In 2007, Canada’s premiers released A Shared Vision for Energy in Canada, a policy document outlining a series of priorities for interprovincial cooperation on energy. It sets out an action plan to facilitate development of renewable and green energy, promote conservation and efficiency, accelerate research and development, and provide for secure and reliable energy transmission and distribution. Through 2012 and 2013, the premiers have updated and expanded the document, presenting it as the basis for a new Canadian energy strategy.

In late April 2013, the premiers of Manitoba, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador met with media to provide an overview of negotiations. Discussions were grouped around three broad areas, with three provinces taking a lead in each area. Grouped under the three broad categories is a 10-point plan (see Canadian Energy Strategy: 10 Action Areas), with each “action item” represented by a provincial working group.

Most of the action items covered in the 10 points have direct or indirect implications for local governments and communities. The emphasis on energy infrastructure and new regulatory processes is of key interest to local governments. Premiers charged with developing a path toward a Canadian energy plan say the next stage is to consult Canadians. Implementation of a national energy strategy will necessarily involve laws, policies, economic instruments and tools that have important local government implications.

Energy Efficiency Act

The Energy Efficiency Act, which took effect in 1992 and was amended in 2009 to expand its scope and effectiveness, provides for the creation and enforcement of regulations on the energy efficiency of products, and supports the pursuit of an energy market transformation in Canada through the replacement of the least efficient products with high-efficiency, cost-effective ones.

Provincial governments are also major contributors to energy efficiency in their respective provinces through the establishment of energy-efficient building codes, equipment standards, etc.

ecoENERGY Programmes

Running until 2016, the ecoENERGY Efficiency Program targets energy efficiency improvements in all end-use sectors, making the housing, building and equipment stock more energy-efficient, energy performance more visible, and industry and vehicle operations more efficient.  The OEE also delivers the ecoENERGY for Biofuels, which supports the production of renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel and encourages the development of a competitive domestic industry, and the ecoENERGY for Alternative Fuels, which supports the diversification of energy used in the transportation sector through education and outreach activities and codes and standards development for natural gas.

Current energy debates or legislation: 

Opinion polls show that Canadians want a national energy strategy that promotes energy efficiency and reduces green¬house gas (GHG) emissions.

A July 2012 Harris-Decima poll found that 87% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agree that “We need a Canadian energy strategy to plan our nation’s energy future.” A majority also indicated that the following should be “top” or “high” prior¬ities for a national energy strategy:

  • Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal – 66%
  • Creating more jobs in clean energy – 74%
  • Reducing Canada’s carbon pollution to slow down climate change – 67%
  • Improving energy efficiency – 82%

Major energy studies: 

Canada participates in the IEA’s Implementing Agreement on Renewable Energy Technology Deployment (IEA-RETD) to facilitate the development and sharing of information on topical policy issues surrounding the deployment of renewable power, and to ensure the access to best practices policies and initiatives in world-leading countries. The IEA-RETD is a policy-focused, technology cross-cutting platform of OECD countries aimed at accelerating the deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Role of government: 

The National Energy Board (NEB or the Board)

The NEB or the Board is an independent federal agency that regulates several aspects of Canada's energy industry. Its purpose is to promote safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest within the mandate set by Parliament in the regulation of pipelines, energy development and trade. The Board's main responsibilities include regulating the construction and operation of interprovincial and international oil and gas pipelines as well as international and designated interprovincial power lines.

The Board regulates pipeline tolls and tariffs for pipelines under its jurisdiction. In terms of specific energy commodities, the Board regulates the exports and imports of natural gas as well as exports of oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and electricity. Additionally, the Board regulates oil and gas exploration, development and production in Frontier lands and offshore areas not covered by provincial or federal management agreements. The Board's advisory function requires keeping under review matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to all aspects of energy supply, transmission and disposal of energy in and outside Canada.

Government agencies in sustainable energy: 

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is a federal government department specializing in the sustainable development and use of natural resources, energy, minerals and metals, forests, and earth sciences.

NRCan provides four main services to Canadians:

  • It conducts leading-edge science and technology research to provide Canadians with ideas, knowledge, and technologies. This helps Canadians use their country's resources wisely, reduce costs, protect the environment, and create new products and services.
  • It builds and maintains a national knowledge infrastructure on Canada's land and resources, so all Canadians can easily access the latest economic, environmental, and scientific information.
  • It ensures that federal policies and regulations on issues such as the environment, trade, the economy, Canadian land, and science and technology enhance the natural resources sector's contribution to the economy. At the same time, it makes sure these policies and regulations protect the environment and the health and safety of Canadians.
  • Together with international agencies and other nations, it promotes Canada's international interests. It helps Canada meet its commitments related to natural resources and keeps access open to global markets for Canadian products, services, and technology.

Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE)

At the federal level, energy efficiency issues are addressed by NRCan through its Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE), with the vision to improve the utilisation of energy by “leading Canadians to energy efficiency at home, at work and on the road”. The OEE delivers the ecoENERGY Efficiency program to improve energy efficiency for a cleaner environment and reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), while saving Canadians money and making the most of Canada’s natural resources.

Energy planning procedures: 

An emerging trend in Canada is the creation of community energy plans, where decisions that used to be left to regional level energy agencies or private individuals are now being considered at the community level. A desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to become more energy self-sufficient is driving this change. Theoretically, local level management is desirable because it achieves these goals through improvements in the three areas of energy efficiency, energy conservation and switching to renewable energy sources. The analysis of 10 of the first community energy plans in Canadian communities, ranging in population size from 500 to one million, finds that communities are choosing policies and programs centred on increasing energy efficiency and conservation while renewable energy receives much less attention.

Municipal operations were called upon to set higher targets than the general community. Communities that recognized the substantial potential of renewable energy often focused on technologies that the municipal sector could implement, such as bio-fuels for their transportation fleet. Wind, passive solar design, solar photovoltaics and solar thermal options were only recommended in a few cases. Overall, only one of the five larger communities (Calgary) recommended implementing multiple renewable energy technologies while three of the five smaller communities proposed multiple renewable energy sources. The implication is that smaller and more remote communities may be the most willing to lead in the planned introduction of renewable energy systems.

Energy regulator Date of creation: 

The NEB is Canada's federal energy regulator. The NEB takes government energy policies into account when carrying out its regulatory functions. Most provinces and territories have energy regulating bodies with specific mandates and responsibilities for their jurisdiction. The NEB works with a number of provincial and federal agencies to improve the regulatory process.

Under the Constitution Act 1982, the provinces have jurisdiction over electricity. Responsibility for environmental stewardship, management, protection and assessment in Canada is shared among federal, provincial and territorial authorities and jurisdictions. Electricity infrastructure projects are subject to multiple pieces of legislation and regulation falling under the jurisdiction of various agencies and orders of government, each of which may have a different mandate and jurisdictional obligation.

The following independent quasi-judicial bodies regulate provincial utilities:

  • British Columbia: Public Utilities Commission
  • Alberta:  Alberta Utilities Commission
  • Saskatchewan: Province of Saskatchewan
  • Manitoba: Province of Manitoba and Public Utilities Board
  • Ontario: Ontario Energy Board
  • Québec: Régie de l’énergie
  • New Brunswick: Provincial Government
  • Nova Scotia: Utility Review Board
  • Prince Edward Island: Regulatory and Appeals Commission of PEI
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Commissioners of Public Utilities
  • Yukon: Yukon Utility Board
  • Northwest Territories: Public Utilities Board
  • Nunavut: Government of Nunavut

In Ontario and Alberta grid management is the responsibility of, respectively the Ontario Independent Market Operator and the Power Pool of Alberta. No other province yet has an independent grid manger.

Degree of independence: 

The National Energy Board (NEB) is an independent federal agency established by the Parliament of Canada in 1959 to regulate international and interprovincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries.

The NEB is accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources Canada. In addition to the Board's role as a regulator, it occasionally provides energy advice to the Minister. The NEB also reports to the public on specific energy issues, holds public inquiries when appropriate and monitors current and future supplies of Canada's major energy commodities.

Regulatory framework for sustainable energy: 

Electricity infrastructure projects and operations are subject to multiple pieces of legislation and regulation falling under the jurisdiction of various agencies and orders of government, each of which may have a different mandate and jurisdictional obligation.  At the federal level, these include:

  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
  • The Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • The Fisheries Act
  • The Migratory Birds Convention Act
  • The Navigable Waters Protection Act
  • The Nuclear Safety and Control Act
  • The Species at Risk Act

Maximizing the benefits of leading-edge technologies and deploying next-generation technology is essential to meeting industry and customer needs and to ensure an adequate and sustainable supply of electricity for the future.  To increase federal support for electricity sector technology and R&D, CEA advocates for improvements to:

  • The Canadian Standards Strategy
  • The Electricity and Gas Inspection Act
  • The Income Tax Act
  • The Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program
  • The Telecommunications Act

Regulatory roles: 

The federal government, through the National Energy Board, issues permits for inter-provincial and international power lines. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has jurisdiction over nuclear safety. Ottawa and the provinces share jurisdiction over environmental issues such as air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Also, major hydroelectric developments trigger federal environmental assessment processes, as the Government of Canada has the power to regulate waterways and fisheries.

Role of government department in energy regulation: 


Regulatory barriers: 

Regulatory burden and delay, including duplication of process, plus a fragmented approach by governments to dealing with environmental issues, coupled with the lack of an integrated and coordinated Federal/Provincial environmental policy framework result in lost opportunities and increased costs, hindering the ability to build essential infrastructure, implement new technologies and deploy innovative approaches to meeting customer expectations.


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