Canada : An Energy Superpower and Global Producer of Sustainable Technologies

Canada : An Energy Superpower and Global Producer of Sustainable Technologies

Canada is an energy giant not just in the traditional oil and gas sector but also in renewable energy, with a diversified mix of hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and even tidal power. In fact, the development of sustainable technologies is a priority for all levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial, territorial and regional. 

Indeed, many support the emergence of a bio-economy with targeted policies and incentives that range from tax credits and education programs to market-stimulating regulations. As a result, projects to harness natural sources of power are underway across the country, and international investors are increasingly attracted to Canada.

A Look at Canada's Wind, Solar and Other Renewable-Energy Clusters

Canada's enviable status among industrialized countries as a net exporter of energy will continue to rise during the 21st century, as alternative-energy projects proceed at a record pace from coast to coast. Indeed, Canada has the third-largest renewable-energy capacity in the world. Major long-term commitments for clean-power purchases in several provinces spur domestic development in this rapidly-growing sector.

Further, Canada is the world's third-largest producer of hydroelectric energy, with generation of about 373 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2011; it added another 1.3 GW (gigawatt) of capacity to end the year with 76.4 GW. Canada's status as a leader in hydropower stems from longstanding, home-grown technical expertise. For instance, the well-known engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has participated in hydro generation projects in more than 120 countries with a total installed capacity of more than 250 GW, and some 90,000 kilometres of power lines.

Canada boasts similar world-class capabilities in the wind energy sector where its installed wind-energy capacity now exceeds 6.5 GW and supplies about three percent of domestic electricity demand, making it the country with the ninth-largest wind energy capacity in the world. In 2011, new projects added more than 1.27 GW to the country's wind-energy capacity; projects in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will soon increase capacity by a further 1.3 GW.

Well-known international investors in the sector include France's EDF, Spain's Acciona, U.S.'s Invenergy and Pattern Energy, and Germany's WPD. International leaders such as Daewoo, Samsung, Enercon and Siemens continue to invest in Canadian plants to develop and manufacture towers, turbine blades and other essential components.

Canada is also emerging as a growing solar-energy. More than 350 solar companies operate in Canada, including 40 manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) components. As an emerging technology, solar PV is R&D intensive, and Canada houses world-class university research groups, research institutes and testing facilities dedicated to solar PV technologies.

The industry now covers the entire supply chain from raw materials (e.g. high-purity polysilicon) to finished products; it includes system integration as well as specialized parts and components such as solar cells, mounts, inverters and control panels. The cluster is based largely in Ontario, Canada's manufacturing heartland.

Ontario is also the first jurisdiction in North America to establish a comprehensive feed-in tariff program for electricity generated from renewable sources. Ontario's research community is involved in the whole range of technologies: thin films, spectroscopy, power distribution and generation, radiation modeling, photovoltaics energy conversion and silicon refinement, along with system design. This research strength, combined with government support and advanced-manufacturing capacity, positions Ontario as a prime location for project developers and for manufacturers of sustainable, alternative-energy technologies and related components.

Overall, there were 289 MW (DC) of solar PV capacity installed in Canada in 2011 representing over 335 GWh of power generation on an annual basis. This level of activity created $584 million of direct economic output and employed approximately 5,100 direct full-time equivalents on an annual basis.

Canada is also becoming a force to reckon with in the field of ocean energy. Bordered by three oceans, Canada is exceptionally rich in tidal-current and wave-energy resources. Although most ocean-energy technologies are still under development, several demonstration projects provide a glimpse of their potential benefits for communities and for investors.

Canada became active in ocean energy in 1984 with the construction of the 20 MW tidal energy plant on the Bay of Fundy at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Canada: A World Leader in Bioenergy and Bioproducts

Large reserves of agricultural and forestry biomass resources, coupled with new made-in-Canada conversion technologies, provide a sound basis for the country's emerging bio-economy.

Whether for ground vehicles or aircraft, biofuel production has now reached two billion litres per year and continues to grow. Canada enjoys an advantageous position in this fast-growing world market, thanks to new technologies, an abundance of suitable resources such as corn, wheat, canola and cellulose (wood fibre), as well as supportive government policies.

In accordance with the Federal Renewable Fuel Regulations, Canada now blends an average of five percent ethanol into its gasolines. 44 ethanol and biodiesel plants already operate in Canada. In Eastern Canada, corn is the primary feedstock for ethanol, while animal fats are the primary feedstocks for biodiesel; facilities in Western Canada use wheat for ethanol and canola for biodiesel.

Several municipal and public-transit fleets in Canada already rely on biodiesels. In 2011, the Government of Canada introduced a two-percent renewable-content requirement for diesel fuel and heating oil. The Government of Canada strongly supports domestic production of renewable fuels by providing funding for programs such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada's NextGen Biofuels Fund, a $500 million program designed to leverage private-sector investment in the world's first commercial facility to produce next-generation renewable fuels.

The development of biomaterials has also increased significantly in recent years in Canada. The recent opening of the country's first nano-crystalline cellulose plant indicates that biomaterials are destined to play a significant role in the Canadian bioproducts industry.

Nano-crystalline cellulose composites produced from wood fibres are used in the aerospace industry to replace heavier, more expensive and non-renewable materials. Other biomaterials are used in the production of automotive parts, tires, insulation, textiles and plastic composites. Canada, the world's second-largest exporter of primary forest products, has an abundant supply of forestry resources. The country is also a world leader in plant genomics and has a number of centres of excellence for the development of the oils used in bioproducts.

To support the development of Canada renewable-energy capacity and related industrial fabric, many international firms have set up new facilities in Canada to develop and manufacture related components and technologies.

New Investment Projects by International Investors (since January 2012)

  • - TSP Canada Towers, a joint venture between China-based Taisheng Wind Power Equipment (known as TSP in China) and British Columbia-based Top Renergy, will establish a $25-million wind-tower manufacturing facility in Thorold, Ontario.
  • - Japan-based Hitachi will build a new $60 million carbon-capture test facility in Estevan, Saskatchewan, in partnership with SaskPower, a provincial Crown corporation.
  • - Top international investors such as U.K.-based International Power and South Korea-based CS Wind have recently invested in new facilities in Ontario.

Canada is open for business and welcomes foreign direct investment from China's growing and significant business community and the private sector.

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