Western, Eastern, and Quebec grids make up Canada’s power grid. Power lines run in a north-south configuration to allow electrical sales to the USA. Each province and territory generates its electricity as follows (2019 data):
Alberta – Nearly 90% of electricity is fossil fuels – 36% coal, 54% natural gas. The remaining 10% is renewable, wind (6%), hydro (3%), biomass (2%); also small amounts of solar and petroleum. Alberta trades electricity primarily with B.C., Saskatchewan, and Montana.
British Columbia – BC Hydro generates 87% of B.C.’s electricity. Independent producers run small hydro plants and all biomass (5%), wind (4%), and solar (2%). 2% is natural gas, (backup during high demand). B.C. trades primarily with NW USA and Alberta.
Manitoba – Manitoba Hydro generates 97% of Manitoba’s electricity, and also operates one natural gas-fired generating station and four remote diesel stations. Wind (almost 4%), biomass, and some solar facilities exist. Manitoba trades with USA Midwest, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.
New Brunswick – NB Power oversees hydro (22%), nuclear (38%) fossil fuels (30%) (natural gas, coal, petroleum). Independent producers support wind (7%), biomass (4%), natural gas, and hydro. N.B. exports to PEI and Maine, natural gas comes from the USA, and oil from other provinces.
Newfoundland/Labrador – Newfoundland Power and N&L Hydro oversee hydro (96%) (some to Quebec), petroleum (3%), natural gas (.6%), and wind (.4%). Independent producers include hydroelectricity, cogeneration, wind, and biogas. Petroleum is shared with eastern USA markets.
Nova Scotia – NS Power oversees thermal plants – a mix of coal (52%), petroleum (2%), oil (2%), natural gas (22%), operations for biomass (3%), and hydro (10%). Most wind (11%) facilities are independent. Has NA’s only tidal power station, and 7% of electricity inflows from other provinces.
Ontario – Hydro One oversees nuclear (59%), hydro (24%), wind (8%), biomass (1%), solar (1%), natural gas (7%), and petroleum (.3%). Interconnections include Manitoba, Minnesota Quebec (imports), Michigan, and New York (exports). OEB regulates the energy sector/electricity.
Prince Edward Island – 99% of the power grid is wind. The remainder is petroleum (.5%), and biomass (.5%). However, 60% of electricity consumed is imported from N.B., a mix of nuclear, fossil fuels, and hydroelectricity. Less than 1% of diesel and oil meet peak power demand.
Quebec – Hydro-Québec’ oversees hydro (94%). Petroleum (.2), solar (<.1%), natural gas (.1%) help peak winter demand, and diesel (remote communities). Independents operate small hydro plants, biomass (.7%) wind (5%). Interconnections include Ontario, N.B., and USA Northeast.
Saskatchewan – SaskPower supplies electricity from coal (41%), natural gas (40%), hydro (15%), and wind (3%). Independents operate some gas, wind, waste heat (.5), and petroleum
(<.1%) in remote off-grid communities. Sask. trades with Alberta, Manitoba, and North Dakota.
Yukon – Yukon Energy Corporation oversees hydroelectricity (80%) and natural gas (20%) supplemented by wind and diesel generators. Five communities off-grid rely on diesel. Diesel and natural gas are used during peak demand. Given long distances, no transmission lines.
Northwest Territories – Northwest Power oversees hydro (46.8%) (8 communities, 2 grids that don’t connect), petroleum/diesel (37.2%) (25 communities), natural gas (14%), and renewables (2%). Net metering exists. Given long distances, no transmission lines.
Nunavut – Quilag Energy operates 27 diesel generators to supply 100% petroleum grid power. Communities are not connected by roads or power lines. No backup grid. All electricity generation is community-based. Net metering exists. Given long distances, no transmission lines.
Canada’s use of electricity as a mass-market service began in 1881 with several independent operators gradually improved upon with larger generating stations. Efficiencies accelerated after WW1 with provincial utilities (the 1920s), hydro projects (1960s and 1970s), nuclear (1960s through 1980s), and renewable startups in the 1990s now with a target of Net Zero by 2050 (at least 2/3x more output). Natural Resources Canada’s “smart grid” is a driver for major infrastructure modernization –allowing for renewables integration/storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and demand response. Reliability rests with provinces and territories’ ability to continuously balance supply/demand/maintenance to avoid outages, and USA/Canada standards.
Over the past decade, vertically-integrated utilities have shifted to various degrees of market liberalization and decentralized services – local distribution companies and independent producers regulated by the provinces/territories. Federal jurisdiction is limited to international exports, construction and operation of power lines, designated interprovincial power through Canada’s Energy Regulator, investment in R&D, and new technologies. The electrical grid is continuously expanding. Above ground, transmissions are becoming at risk of extreme weather events, (emergency repair). Grids are facing cyber threats, and huge asset expansion to support more electric vehicles, heat pumps, industry, smaller independent systems, and transmission lines connecting provinces to allow for more diversity of supply.
Canada’s electricity grid is currently 83% emission-free and targets 90% by 2030. Emission reduction can be supported by replacing fossil fuels with more battery storage to adjust demand peaks, and transitioning rural and remote communities from diesel to wind/solar. The territories implementing demand management can reduce overall and peak-time energy consumption by connecting to the NA grid. Canada’s phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030 and more natural gas regulations, and bringing power from Newfoundland and Quebec to N.B. and N.S. will reduce emissions. Accurate emissions factors are decarbonizing the electricity sector (grams of CO₂ equivalent emitted for each kWh of electricity generated on a national level) with a steady decline in CO₂ intensity, and emissions leakage.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller