Canada boosts renewables output but challenges remain: report

Canada ranked fourth in the world in renewable power production in 2015, with its hydro-dominated base providing 64.5% of the country’s electricity versus 60.2% a decade earlier – but solar and wind face challenges to further gain market share, according to a new report from the National Energy Board.

Among renewables, hydro provided 58% of Canada’s 646,040 GWh of electricity last year, followed by wind (4%), biomass (2%) and solar (0.5%).

In 2005, hydro had a 59% share of 610,238 GWh of power output, wind (0.2%), biomass (1%) and nothing for solar.

During the last decade, wind added the most nameplate generation capacity - 556MW to 11,071MW, according to data in Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape: Energy Market Analysis 2016. That gave wind an 8% share of 144,525MW of capacity nationwide versus 0.5%of 122,066MW in 2005.

Hydro also advanced in total capacity from 72,861MW to 79,280MW last year. Its share of Canada’s nameplate generation capacity, however, fell from 60% to 55% last year. The report noted that hydro remains the dominant source of electricity in Canada.

Biomass and solar remain minor players across the country for installed generation capacity with 2% and 1%, respectively.

The report said that solar and wind energy face multiple challenges to increase their market share in Canada, despite various policies and programmes that support their adoption.

These include low growth in electricity demand and power prices that are among the cheapest in the world.

“Growth in renewables generally occurs as replacements for existing generation rather than in response to new demand,” the report said."Although costs decreased for solar and wind power due to technological advances and large-scale production, it is still difficult for these relatively expensive renewable sources to compete for market share in many areas.”

Solar and wind projects can also face public criticism and approval delays, while renewables add operating complexities to power grids, it added.

Ontario and Nova Scotia have seen the largest gains in renewable power production among provinces over the last decade – Ontario from 23% to 34% and Nova Scotia 12% to 24%, according to the report.

The only provinces that still rely primarily on fossil fuels are Alberta, Saskatchewan and sparsely-populated Nunavut.