Canada’s Electricity is Largely Hydro-Driven

Canada’s Electricity is Largely Hydro-Driven

National Resources Canada describes the country’s total electricity generation in 2018 as 641 terawatt hours (TWh), or 2% of the world’s electricity generation. The breakdown of Canada’s energy usage is as follows: 60% hydro, 15% nuclear. 7% coal, 11% natural gas, and 7% renewables. In 2019, Canada exported 60.4 TWh—or 8%—of its electricity to the United States and imported 13.4 TWh through 34 major international transmission lines connecting the two countries.

As a government agency, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) is responsible for administering acts and regulations as well as implementing government-wide regulatory initiatives. In 2018, CER stated that nearly 82% of Canada’s electricity came from non-GHG emitting sources (specifically hydro, nuclear, and renewables). Nuclear energy continues to engage public debate as the processes for mining and refining uranium ore and making reactor fuel all require large amounts of energy. Canadian regulation of the electricity sector occurs primarily at the provincial level and includes most policies regarding pricing as well as the types of power generation used.

The CER reported that between 1990 and 2016, while nearly all jurisdictions in Canada increased their electricity generation, many saw a significant decrease in their generation intensity. This trend is expected to continue as emissions from coal are either phased out or captured through carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy growth continues.

Between 2005 and 2017, roughly 16 gigawatts (GW) of non-hydro renewable capacity were added to Canada’s electricity mix. Key driving factors behind this change were a combination of policy changes, market forces, and an overall transition towards a low-carbon future. Electricity currently provides 17% of Canada’s end-use energy needs; the rest is primarily made up of hydrocarbons.

Policies impacting the source, distribution, and electric of electric power in Canada are encompassed within the Canadian Energy Regulator Act which oversees certificates, licenses, and permits issued by the National Energy Board. More broadly, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (Canada’s climate plan) supports a transition to a clean-electricity future with 90% of the country’s electricity coming from renewable and low-carbon-emission sources by 2030. The Framework seeks to connect clean power to places that need it, modernize electricity systems, and reduce diesel reliance in Northern and remote communities.

Canada is working with provinces and territories to reduce environmental impacts from electricity generation, both domestically and internationally, by:

  • Phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity.
  • Introducing new regulations to cut emissions from natural-gas-fired and diesel-fired electricity.
  • Investing in smart grids from neighbouring provinces to be more accessible.
  • Implementing carbon pollution pricing.
  • Providing incentives for Canadians to conserve energy and reduce their emissions.

Strengthening this strategy requires an ongoing commitment to decarbonating electricity, electrification, fuel-switching, improving the transportation sector, and improving energy efficiency to one day achieve a net-zero future.

Source: Conceptual Illustration of Energy Future 2020 Scenarios and a Net-Zero Future


To achieve a low carbon sustainable use of electric power, continued low carbon technology development is essential for a net-zero energy system by 2050. We support Generation Energy Council recommendations, a nation-wide dialogue with stakeholders, experts and individual Canadians to envision a low-carbon energy future over the course of a generation. This includes reducing energy waste, switching to clean power, using more renewable energy and producing cleaner gas and oil. Their report notes that “fully one-third of our Paris emissions commitment could be achieved by improving energy efficiency…”.


The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources
Mail: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Telephone: 1 613 992 0927

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller


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