Canada must double electricity generation by 2050, report says

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electricity grid
Canada will need to double its current electricity production to meet demand by 2050, particularly to accommodate the growth of electric vehicles. Photo Credit: Артур Ничипоренко, stock.adobe.com

Provinces and territories will have to make significant investments in their electricity systems over the coming decades to support the growing demand for electricity, according to the Canada Energy Regulator. 

In Canada, 84% of electricity comes from sources such as hydroelectricity, solar, wind, and nuclear, but the national energy regulator predicts in a new report that the country will need to more than double its current electricity production to meet demand by 2050, particularly to accommodate the growth of electric vehicles.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault released Ottawa’s proposed Clean Electricity Regulations last week. They are designed to help Canada achieve a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 and cut 340 megatonnes of greenhouse gas pollution between 2024 and 2050.

“Investments of more than $400 billion are needed as part of both the routine replacement of aging facilities and the expansion of generation capacity to meet increased demands due to population and economic growth, as well as the switch to electric vehicles and electrified public transit, the adoption of electric heating in buildings, and the electrification of industrial processes,” states the new federal report Powering Canada Forward.  

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Since the 1980s, Canada’s total electricity capacity has nearly doubled. In the past 10 years alone, capital investments in power infrastructure have averaged about $24 billion annually.

Last year, the federal government launched engagement on the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) by publishing a Discussion Paper in March 2022 and the Proposed Regulatory Frame for the CER in July 2022.  A Clean Electricity Strategy is currently set for release in 2024. 

The Powering Canada report highlights some of the work being done to transition Canada to a net-zero electricity grid, such as Alberta already attracting $4 billion in new solar and wind investment since 2019, leading to the creation of more than 5,000 jobs.

Provinces such as Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador have vast hydroelectricity resources providing them with abundant clean energy and storage capabilities. Prince Edward Island’s electricity is also heavily drawn from renewable sources.

Ontario is Canada’s leading producer of nuclear energy but still relies on fossil fuels for some of its electricity generation. Other jurisdictions, including Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, are currently reliant on fossil fuels for much of their electricity generation. 

The report states that there are more than 200 remote communities across the country — most of them Indigenous — that currently rely exclusively or heavily on diesel-powered generation for their electricity.

The Canada Energy Regulator, using a Global Net Zero scenario in its recent report, predicts that the capital costs for solar energy in 2050 will drop 62% below 2020 figures, while wind will decline 14% over the same timeframe.

With investments made in 2023, the federal government has now committed more than $40 billion to support Canada’s clean electricity sector in the form of tax measures, public financing, and grants and contributions. Ottawa has also committed over $5 billion in grants and contributions for targeted clean electricity programs.

The federal government is already supporting several clean electricity projects:

  • Peak Smart Project in Yukon. Residential Demand Response Program: In 2018, Natural Resources Canada contributed over $700,000 to a project that used demand response technology to reduce the use of residential electric heating and hot water end-use loads when demand on the grid peaks in the winter.
  • Burchill Wind Energy Project in New Brunswick. In May 2022, Canada announced nearly $50 million through the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program to support the Burchill Wind Energy Project, which is a partnership involving the Natural Forces and Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. This project consists of 10 wind turbine generators, producing up to 42 megawatts of renewable energy, coupled with a utility-scale battery energy storage system.
  • Métis Crossing Solar Project in Alberta. In August 2022, Natural Resources Canada announced an investment of nearly $9 million for the Métis Nation of Alberta to deploy a 4.86 MW solar power generation project in Smoky Lake County at Métis Crossing.
  • The Deep Earth Energy geothermal facility in Saskatchewan. In January 2019, Canada provided $25.6 million in funding for the 5 MW facility, which will produce enough energy to power approximately 5,000 homes while eliminating yearly emissions equivalent to removing 7,400 cars from roads.

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