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How Has the Renewable Energy Market Changed?

Renewable electricity generating capacity has grown quickly in the last 10 years. The emergence of renewable technologies around the globe point to wider deployment as more countries embrace more sustainable energy systems. In Canada, hydroelectricity accounted for about 66 percent of electricity generation in 2016. However, in hand with nuclear energy, more than 80 percent of Canada’s electricity generation is free of greenhouse gas emissions. With support from all levels of government, reliance on new renewable sources of energy will continue to grow.

Further research and increased use of renewable energy sources include biomass, wind, and solar power. These new sources will help ensure Canadians can enjoy a sustainable electricity system with more commercial electricians embracing new technologies. Here’s how the renewable energy market has changed over the last 15 or so years.

Hydroelectricity

As mentioned, hydro remains Canada’s largest electricity source. Between 2005 and 2016, hydroelectricity accounted for an average of 59.6 percent of total electricity generation. The prime areas hydroelectricity is generated are:

  • Yukon
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Newfoundland and Labrador

Nuclear electricity produced in Ontario and New Brunswick produced an average of 14.7 percent of Canada’s electricity in the same period. This makes it the second-largest electricity source in the country. However, natural gas generation during this time increased from 6.8 percent to 9.6 percent, and coal and oil generation declined. The decrease in coal and oil is thanks to emissions-reduction plans, such as the coal phase-out in Ontario.

Non-Hydro Renewable Energy

During the period between 2005 and 2016, the largest increase in non-hydro renewable generation was wind generation. Collectively, non-hydro renewable energy increased from 1.5 percent to 7.2 percent of total energy generation. However, growth was also seen in solar energy from zero in 2010 to 0.5% in 2016. Interestingly solar was exclusive to Ontario. Biomass also grew in the same timelines from 1.3 percent to 2 percent.

Capacity Changes in 2016

The retirement of generating stations such as Burrard Thermal contributed to the decreased capacity of Canadian natural gas, oil and diesel capacity noted in 2016. Meanwhile, hydro, wind, biomass, and solar grew by 2 261 MW in 2016. This group of renewables’ share of Canada’s total capacity represented an increase of 0.8 percent year over year from 2015.

Renewable Energy Sources

The following renewable energy sources will continue to impact Canadian energy market changes:

Biomass

Biomass is generated using living organisms such as wood byproducts. At 35 percent of overall renewable energy generation, it has become the most popular renewable energy source in the OECD. In Canada, however, biomass energy accounts for just 23 percent, yet it is still the second-largest electricity source in Canada. As of 2018, Canada has 36 operational co-generation units at pulp and paper mills and 41 Independent Power Providers (IPP) using biomass.

Biomass has an electrical capacity of 3,427 MW. However, it is also used for heat generation with a heat capacity of 1,348 MW. There are 351 bioheat projects underway as of 2017, with 82 percent at less than 1MW. The main targets for biomass use include schools and hospitals. More commercial electricians will need to become familiar with the changes in this area of renewable energy.

Bioenergy produced from forest biomass comes from several different tree sources including:

  • Harvestable trees not suitable for lumber
  • Stand thinning materials
  • Harvest residues
  • Dead trees due to fire, diseases, or insects
  • Biomass tree plantations
  • By-products of industrial forest processes such as sawdust, bark, and chips; harvesting and milling operations; and pulp residues

To meet the criteria for optimal biomass, the industry has developed improved harvesting technologies and post-harvest treatments. Further research will focus on finding more sources and improving efficiencies for the growth, harvest, and collection of biomass. As well, to make sense as a renewable energy source it must be easily transported for conversion into biofuel. In other words, biomass energy must continue to show it can generate a sustainable, affordable supply of energy.

Wind

Wind-generated electricity is becoming more popular around the world. In 2018 it generated 5.1 percent of Canadian electricity at 32.9 terawatt-hour TWh and in 2019 the total capacity was 13,417 MW. It is ideal for Canadian geography which is suited to high wind generation. Ontario and Quebec had the most wind capacity in 2019 with 5,436 MW and 3,882 MW of power respectively.

Solar photovoltaic

Solar power might seem like old news today, yet it continues to provide an economical renewable energy source. It converts sunlight into energy using solar photovoltaics (PV), with Ontario at the heart of Canada’s solar photovoltaic capacity which reached 3,040 MW in 2018.

Canada will continue to pursue renewable energy options with more commercial electricians offering greener energy building solutions. Either way, ongoing changes point towards energy generation with zero greenhouse gas emissions.