When It Comes to Diversity, You Can’t Beat Canadian Electricity

Where do the provinces get their power and where does it go? You might be surprised

January 27, 2017

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When it comes to diversity, you can’t beat Canada’s electricity industry’s power sources, which are as diverse as our geography and people. Nova Scotia launched its fledgling tidal power project this winter, a promising sign for a country with the world’s longest coast line. Saskatchewan is still fiercely defending its right to burn coal—the hydrocarbon that powered the nation-building railway in the 19th century and has helped turn us into a 21st century leader in carbon capture technology. In the North, communities that truck diesel fuel across ice roads at great cost are studying wind power and converting abandoned oil wells to geothermal systems, while Alberta prepares to swap out coal powered electricity for natural gas and renewables. Since the 19th century, rivers have thundered through turbines making hydro power the nation’s main muscle of electricity generation, which the East exports to the U.S. while the West is a net importer of electricity.

Provincial Power Regimes and Sources

Province Market Type Power Sources US Trade Annual Production Capacity TWh
British Columbia Dominated by BC Hydro a Crown corp Mainly hydro, some wind and fossil fuels Net importer 67
Alberta Deregulated Mainly coal and gas, 15% renewables Net importer 75.8
Saskatchewan dominated by Saskpower a Crown corp Mainly coal and gas, 25% renewables Net importer 22.3
Manitoba dominated by Manitoba Hydro a Crown corp 98% hydro Net exporter 35.6
Ontario mixed Mixed Gas, nuclear, renewables Net exporter 149.8*
Quebec dominated by Hydro-Quebec govt controlled 99% renewables – mainly hydro Net exporter 206.8*
Nova Scotia Privately owned Nova Scotia Power Coal, pet coke, gas, oil, hydro N/A 10.6
New Brunswick dominated by NB Power a Crown corp Oil, hydro, nuclear, coal, gas, wind Net exporter 16.3
* these figures are from 2014; the rest are from 2015

Variety of sources of power
Hydro dominates Canada’s power production, accounting for about 60%, followed by fossil fuels and nuclear, but modern renewables are rapidly growing

Diversity of low-carbon power sources
(83% of all power produced in Canada)

Hydro and nuclear power, topped off with modern renewables, mean 83% of Canadian power comes from a low-carbon source

Power generation and transmission
Quebec and Ontario are Canada’s two biggest power producers and both export to the U.S.

First Commercial Power Plants by source

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