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Expanded Canadian Renewable Energy Database Points To Growing Role for Wind, Solar, and Biomass

Solar panels near Iroquois, Ontario.
Solar panels near Iroquois, Ontario.

Though hydroelectricity continues to dominate Canada’s renewable-energy mix, a new count of the country’s clean electrons suggests wind, solar, and biomass are flexing their muscles.

Since 2000, new wind turbines have contributed to more than half of the total increase in renewable energy capacity. Wind now accounts for 7.9 GW of electrical capacity—nine percent of total renewable capacity—in the country.

Meanwhile, nearly 1 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity has been added in recent years, the majority of which has occurred in Ontario.

In addition to providing thermal energy for industrial applications, biomass is increasingly providing warmth for community heating as well as liquid fuels for transport. The new report flags more than 375 biomass facilities in the country.

The new findings arrive courtesy Renewable Energy in Canada 2013, a report prepared for Natural Resources Canada by the Canadian Industrial Energy End-Use Data and Analysis Centre.

The Centre is part of Energy and Materials Research Group in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University. The group maintains a database of renewable energy capacity and supply across Canada that is more detailed and up-to-date than that available from Statistics Canada.

This year, the Centre secured funding to gather data from publicly available sources, including the country’s various renewable energy associations. With information on small hydro, biomass, wind, solar, earth (geothermal) and tidal resources—broken down by province and installation period—it’s a playground for energy data hounds.

As we noted last year, in Canada, energy data collection and analysis is scattered across numerous agencies and levels of government—an awkward consequence of constitutional arrangements around energy and natural resources. Trying to find, access, and compile energy data on, say, Alberta wind generation statistics can feel like an exercise in futility.

The university’s new upgraded database goes a long way to addressing that shortcoming, at least as far as renewable energy goes. It currently accounts for 11 percent of Canada’s primary energy production and 67 percent of its electricity generation in 2013.

Renewable energy constitutes about two thirds of Canada’s total installed electrical capacity. Such sources account for more than 90 percent of the installed electric capacity in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Québec.

With its large hydroelectric dams, Québec alone accounts for almost half of Canadian renewable electricity capacity, the report notes.