Government Data on Renewable Energies in Canada

November 2003

Since its inception in 1997, the canadian association for renewable energies has urged the development and release of timely and accurate data on the production and consumption of all renewable energies in Canada, including both green power (generation) and green heat (thermal space heating). Without such data, market penetration by the domestic renewable energy sector will be unduly constrained.

The need for current capacity and projective data has increased during the 16 months, as this file shows:


June 10, 2002 - Energy ministers from Canada, Mexico and the US (NAEWG) release ‘North America - The Energy Picture.’ The trilateral report was requested by Jean Chrétien, George Bush and Vicente Fox at the Summit of the Americas in Québec in April 2001.

June 10 - c.a.r.e. notes that NRCan predicts that generation from non-hydro renewables in Canada (line 16) will drop from 6 TWh in 1999 to 2 TWh by 2010, a decline in output of two-thirds in this decade.

June 24 - c.a.r.e. submits the first of four formal requests (the last was submitted September 5) to energy minister Herb Dhaliwal, seeking clarification of the NAEWG forecast. There is no response to any request.

July 2 - c.a.r.e. asks NRCan to undertake an “immediate and comprehensive analysis of the capacity and potential” of wind, PV, hydro, tidal, ocean, geothermal, earth energy, solar thermal and biomass energy in Canada (ie: both generation and space conditioning applications). It specifically asks NRCan to identify and define all eligible technologies, and to work with the industry to develp an estimate for energy and environmental contributions, both from on-grid and off-grid installations in each province, for current installed capacity as well as 10-year and 25-year future projections.

July 8 - c.a.r.e. releases its July 2 letter.

July - Numerous officials from NRCan privately express their disagreement with c.a.r.e.'s reporting of the NAEWG forecast, but decline to provide any official or published data to the contrary.

August 14 - c.a.r.e. files a request under ATIP (Access to Information Act) to obtain all data considered by NRCan in the preparation of its NAEWG forecast. It specifically asks for all background to substantiate the estimates for non-hydro renewables (6 TWh and 2 TWh points); background notes or briefing papers or policy positions which justify the rationale for the data; documents or references to substantiate the estimates from ‘renewables-hydro; and documents to substantiate the estimates from ‘renewables-all’ in 2000 and 2010.

August 20 - Dhaliwal responds to the July 2 letter, noting that NRCan will "continue to improve" its data on renewable energy, but will work with the International Energy Agency on data for wind, PV and solar heating.

August 21 - The IEA website reveals no data on seven of the nine technologies identified as renewables, and c.a.r.e. is told that other data will not be made public for some time.

September 12 - The ATIP Secretariate asks c.a.r.e. for permission to extend the legal deadline for responding to the request of August 14, due to delays in sourcing information from NRCan.

September 12 - NRCan’s Renewable & Electrical Energy Division convenes the first meeting of a working group on renewable energy data collection, with a mandate to agree on methodology, concepts and interpretation, and to consider “concerns” about developing a database. The goal is to “limit duplication and avoid misunderstandings of a conceptual nature” and participants are invited from “Statistics Canada, Environment Canada, units managing small hydraulic dams and wind energy projects, the Economic & Financial Analysis Division, etc.”

September 26 - The second meeting of the NRCan working group on renewables data is held to seek agreement on the definition of renewable energy concepts and the relevance of data for potential national and international users. It specifies the various technologies and completes a matrix on production, distribution, revenue generated, jobs created and consumption of renewables in Canada from 1997 to 2002.

October 25 - NRCan says consultation for the working group is complete and the matrix will be finalized before it is shared. NRCan confirms that no Minutes were taken at either meeting of the group.

November 12 - The ATIP Secretariate delivers the formal response to the August 14 request, with five pages:

  • a two-page news release dated June 10 (hard copy of the first item above);
  • a two-page draft internal memo dated June 6 with speaking notes for Dhaliwal to explain that the report “integrates a range of data on energy sources and consumption in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. that was previously not available in one source” and which “will be helpful to analysts, industry, governments and those members of the public at large with an interest in energy matters”;
  • affirmation that all data on non-hydro renewable generation up to 1999 were sourced from the latest editions of Statistics Canada reports (Energy Supply-Demand in Canada and Electric Power Generating Stations);
  • affirmation that all projections for forecasts to 2010 are from Table C-22 of the final report from the Analysis & Modeling Group of the National Climate Change Process, which indicates that wind generated 26 GWh in 1990 and 88 GWh in 1997 (latest year available), will increase to 120 GWh in 2000, remain static to 2010, and then drop to 110 GWh by 2020. Biomass rose from 2,145 GWh in 1990 to 4,477 in 1997, and forecasts 0 GWh (sic) in 2000, 1,500 in 2010 and 630 GWh in 2020.

November 19 - c.a.r.e. files a request under ATIP to access NRCan’s FY2002-03 business plan for its renewable energy division, including details on the “policy rationale for the support of each technology, benchmarks or milestones for all activities, funding level and budget source for each technology, projections for industry achievements that are expected to accrue from NRCan assistance, estimates of GHG avoidance and any predictions of cost curves” and more.

November 22 - c.a.r.e. appeals to NRCan to prepare and disseminate data on Canada's renewable energy industry as a crucial element of the government's action plan to ratify Kyoto.

November 25 - The International Energy Agency releases a fact sheet that predicts the use of non-hydro renewables in Canada and the U.S. will increase from 2% in 2000 to 12% in 2030 under a 'pro-environment' policy scenario. It says Canada obtained 16.8% of its primary energy from renewables in 2000; 12.3% if biomass and EFW are excluded.

January 17, 2003 - The ATIP Secretariate asks c.a.r.e. for clarification on its November 19 request for access to the business plan relating to hydro, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, earth energy and biomass.

January 28 - c.a.r.e. is invited by the National Energy Board to appear at the consultation session on 'Supply & Demand Scenarios to 2025' but is forced to cancel due to lack of resources. It files a cursory submission, noting that benchmark and forecast data on renewables are poorly formulated and conflicting. It is not known if NRCan submitted data and the NEB says input from that public session are not released.

February 24 - The ATIP Secretariate formally reports that “NRCan has no documents / information that responds to your ATIP" as worded by c.a.r.e. on November 19.

October 17 - Data released by the International Energy Agency show that the share of non-hydroelectric renewable energy in Canada has declined from 4.9% of total priumary energy supply in 1973 (the OPEC oil embargo) to 4.5% in 1999 (the latest data available).

October 18 - c.a.r.e. recommends that a special agency be created to promote renewable energy applications in Canada, with the participation of federal, provincial and municipal officials, as well as utilities and the industry.

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  1. NRCan affirms that only one source (AMG 1999 report) was used for its June 2002 NAEWG forecast for green power to 2010. This report indicates that output from wind energy (disaggregated from biomass) will decline between 2010 and 2020, although NAEWG predicted that wind and biomass combined would decline between 2000 and 2010 (NAEWG did not predict beyond 2010). No other predictive source (eg: National Energy Board, NRCan's Energy Technologies Future, etc) was used to forecast non-hydro renewable generation in Canada.
  2. It is assumed that the definition and parameters of 'non-hydro renewables' was made consistent between the Statistics Canada reports and the AMG report, prior to release by NAEWG.
  3. It is assumed that tidal generation is included in hydroelectricity classification; it is not clear where output from solar PV, geothermal and ocean / wave energy is included.
  4. The NAEWG and AMG reports deal only with grid renewables; they do not reflect any power generated in off-grid systems nor do they include space conditioning contribution from GreenHeat sources such as solar thermal, earth energy or biomass. In 1999, c.a.r.e. noted that the U.S. Department of Energy did not include off-grid and GreenHeat applications in its official reports, resulting in recognition of only 3.9 quads while another 3.2 quads were ignored. DOE subsequently amended its reports to include this estimated potential.
  5. There is no indication that any other forecast exists within NRCan to detail the official predictions for the short-term or long-term growth (or decline) of domestic renewable energy capacity.
  6. The ATIP request specifically asked for any background notes or briefing papers or policy positions which were developed to substantiate the data used in the NAEWG report. No documents were provided or referenced or denied, so it is interpreted that none exist.
  7. AMG has 24 members: nine from federal departments and at least one from each province; there are no industry participants. The AMG mandate is to “ensure the coherency of baseline data” and to provide a framework ”to ensure consistency and comparability” among policy options under the climate change process.
  8. NRCan's participants on AMG are employed in the Analysis & Modeling Division of the Energy Sector Branch, which is responsible for developing long-term energy projections as “the official projection provided to the IEA ... as part of Canada's international reporting requirements” and for use in the quantitative assessment of energy options. It is assumed that background information on renewables was provided by AMD employees to their colleagues on AMG.
  9. The IEA does not compile or release data on most technologies identified by c.a.r.e. and, of the capacity data that are available, there are no predictions of future production / consumption and few breakouts by application.
  10. In the 2001 year-end summary on wind energy published by IEA and referenced by NRCan as a source, Canada states that it has no national target for wind energy nor for renewable energies (page 42), nor any national wind energy deployment targets (page 83). It is assumed that Canada's commitment of $260 million under the Wind Power Production Incentive was formulated in the absence of any national targets or strategy.
  11. The IEA fact sheet (published in November but not yet released officially) was produced to overcome the definitional inconsistencies and lack of data which hindered a full examination of renewables at the WSSD this summer.
  12. NRCan started to collect data on renewables more than three months after it released the trilateral report, but these data remain confidential (as of December 2002) and it is assumed that they do not include predictions of future production / consumption, nor provide calculations on environmental benefits from each source, nor is there any indication that the final results (if and when released) will be acceptable to the industry. The decision to not produce Minutes makes it difficult to obtain information under ATIP legislation.
  13. Although the federal government has limited jurisdiction in power generation, the federal AMG and federal NAEWG predictions included data dissemination on current and future generation of electricity.
  14. There have been no changes to the 1996 federal ‘Renewable Energy Strategy’ which was a "blueprint" to help the domestic renewables industry grow and become more self-sustaining, but which contained no forecasts or targets.
  15. A November report from Pollution Probe, funded by Environment Canada, recommends inter alia that a national effort is needed to identify Canada’s potential renewable energy sources. Recent reports from other groups have called for compilation of data on renewables and to show the potential of these technologies.
  16. There is no Canadian equivalent to the Renewable Energy Annual produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, although NRCan's stated goal is to integrate data and make energy data comparable.
  17. NRCan created a specific internet website in 1999 to highlight renewable energies in Canada but (except for hydroelectricity) no capacity data or predictions of production / consumption are available on that domain.

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Most developed nations have identified renewable energies as a viable option in the global transition to economically-viable and environmentally-sustainable energy sources. Most of these countries have released well-publicized strategies to promote renewables, including clear targets that were established in consultation with stakeholders.

c.a.r.e. has urged NRCan to develop the framework necessary to promote renewables in Canada and to ensure that similar targets are set. The domestic news it researches, as well as the global news it produces for Refocus magazine, have provided numerous examples of how goals have been developed and implemented elsewhere, including the strategies and roadmaps which are used to support and promote renewable energies in other countries.

There is a risk that, in the absence of data which predict positive growth, government's commitment to renewables could be undermined by reliance on internal predictions that renewables will diminish. Also, support may be withheld from feasible green technologies under a scenario of negative data and no strategy.

c.a.r.e. is concerned that the application (or perceived application) of ad hoc or unsubstantiated policy measures may endanger public support for renewable energy technologies in Canada ... at a time when public support is critical.

The collection and dissemination of appropriate data on renewables becomes important in the debate over Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the GHG reduction targets to which renewables can make a significant contribution. Proposals such as 'green funds' and methods to limit global emissions trading, will require a benchmark of renewable energies.

It is not unreasonable to assume that an official prediction in a trilateral report that generation from non-hydro renewables will decrease two-thirds by the end of this decade, may result in negative perceptions of the investment climate in Canada or of the government commitment to renewable energies. This negative prediction has not been clarified nor off-set by the release of official data to the contrary, notwithstanding the introduction of support measures by government.

The paper-trail provided by NRCan (and confirmed under ATIP legislation) indicates inconsistencies, contradictions and deficiencies in policies to support renewable energies in Canada. If the federal and provincial governments are increasing their support for renewables despite official predictions of significant negative growth, Canadians could anticipate that support would be stronger, more coherent and more strategic if official predictions indicated positive growth.

c.a.r.e. has repeatedly asked NRCan to undertake an immediate and comprehensive analysis of the capacity and potential for each renewable energy technology in Canada, so predictions can be developed which show the energy and environmental benefits from all eligible technologies, in all feasible applications, in all provinces, for both near-term and far-term horizons.

Data indicate that renewable energy is in a state of decline in Canada, despite supportive programs at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. c.a.r.e. believes these government forecasts are wrong, are damaging to the investment climate in Canada, and must be corrected.

Without credible data, policy support for renewables in Canada will always be constrained.


canadian association for renewable energies
         we c.a.r.e.

Bill Eggertson, CAE, Executive Director
         (613) 728-0822     (fax) 728-2505