Canada is falling behind. That's the message that kicked off Tracking the Revolution — Global, this report’s preceding companion edition. Though our clean tech sector—a category that includes clean energy, among other industries—grew 17 percent in 2013, other economies grew theirs faster.
This companion report paints a considerably brighter picture about clean energy in Canada.
That’s because on the home front, things are going very well. In fact, with respect to domestic clean energy investment and development, this past year proved Canada's best ever. Thanks to provincial leadership, a steady stream of money flowed into projects from domestic and foreign banks. In fact, investment in new clean-power generation approached CAD $10.7 billion—a healthy 88 percent bump over 2013.
Top 10 Canadian Clean Energy Facts
- 1In 2013, the rate of job growth in Canada’s clean energy sector outpaced that of every other sector in the country.
- 2Canada just had its best year ever; clean-energy generation investment jumped a significant 88 percent over the previous year.
- 3Ontario welcomed more than half of the nation’s clean-energy investment last year.
- 4Canada now ranks sixth in the world for investment in new domestic clean energy generation projects.
- 5Almost half of all new growth in solar PV capacity occurred at the residential and commercial scale, as homeowners and business owners bolted panels on rooftops.
- 6Contrary to the perceptions of wind power opponents, two separate peer-reviewed studies released last year concluded that wind turbines harm neither human health nor property values.
- 7About 26,900 Canadians work in clean energy, including Meredith Smith, who builds and maintains wind turbines, and whom we declared one of five Clean Energy Champions. (You go, Meredith!)
- 8Last summer, Toronto’s Northland Power put together the largest non-hydro renewable energy financing deal in history—a USD$5.8 billion agreement to build an offshore wind farm in the Netherlands.
- 9When one includes large hydro in the mix, there’s now roughly 89 GW of renewable electricity capacity in Canada, ranking us 4th in the world. That’s enough to power more than 35 million homes.
- 10Canada has shut down 4,600 MW worth of coal power—the equivalent of scrapping 8.7 million vehicles.
On the ground, that cash translated into a lot of concrete and steel. The nation’s utilities and developers have been steadily building vast solar and wind farms, humming hydro plants, and biofuel and biomass plants—particularly in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, where favourable policy frameworks encourage them to do so.
When one includes large hydro in the mix, there’s now roughly 89 GW of renewable electricity capacity in Canada, ranking 4th in the world. To put this in perspective, that’s enough to power more than 35 million homes.
Ontario, with its continent-leading Green Energy Act, leads the nation for new clean energy capacity and smart grid investments, while green-leaning Quebec—home of the nation’s biggest wind farms—follows closely behind. British Columbia is also taking advantage of its natural geographic endowment that makes it well-suited for hydro development.
Then there’s all the innovation underway. This report highlights the idea-incubation and cleantech convening work underway at MaRS, and salutes an energy-storage leader who will distribute the Tesla Powerwall north of the 49th.
While 2014 was packed with biggests and bests, only clean-energy policies will transform provincial energy systems, and in 2014 new or strengthened policies were in short supply.
Part of the challenge is that, when it comes to policy, the provinces are doing all the heavy lifting. With the exception of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a federally funded agency that provides critical early-stage financing to clean energy innovators, Ottawa remains largely indifferent to the opportunities of the clean energy revolution. The growth, excitement, and successes happening across the country—even in the absence of federal leadership—is testament to the efforts of provincial leaders and innovative entrepreneurs.
But it begs the question: How much more could be achieved with a supportive federal government? Hint: You’ll find the answer in our conclusion.
So here’s to the champions (we formally recognize five of them here) who are driving Canada’s clean energy shift. Here’s also to the companies and institutions that are reducing fossil fuel reliance, improving public health, and dialing back carbon pollution while creating jobs and wealth in their communities.
Don’t worry, mavericks, our governments will catch up to you soon enough.
By the Numbers: Ontario Captures the LeadStart Tracking
Download Tracking the Energy Revolution — Canada 2015 Report
This year, Tracking the Energy Revolution is a digital-first report, though we are also making it available as a PDF download below. We welcome your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.