Market Snapshot: Second to Hydro, nuclear power contributes most to Canada’s grid

Release date: 2018-11-15

Electricity is generated from many different sources in Canada. Those include hydro, nuclear, natural gas, coal, oil, wind, solar, and biomass. In 2017, hydro accounted for the majority of electricity generated, at 60% of total generation. The second largest source was nuclear, which accounted for 15% of total generation. Although only two provinces use nuclear energy to generate electricity (Ontario and New Brunswick), Canada produced 4% of the world’s total nuclear energy output in 2016.

From 2005 to 2017, nuclear generation in Canada increased by 14%, while total generation from all sources increased by 4%. The increase was from refurbished nuclear power plants, which included returning some reactors to service after extended shutdowns. No new nuclear plants have been constructed in Canada since 1993.

From 2017 to 2040, nuclear generation is projected to decline by 10% in Canada while total electricity generation is projected to increase by 13%. Nuclear generation is expected to decline in the near term, followed by a projected rise. This is because two of Ontario’s nuclear power plants will undergo refurbishment programs needed to extend the use of nuclear energy to beyond 2060. A third plant in Ontario is currently planned to be permanently shut down before 2030.

Electricity generation in Canada by source projected to 2040

Source and Description

Source: Canada’s Energy Future 2018

Description: This area chart shows electricity generation in Canada broken into sources from 2005 to 2016, with a projection from 2017 to 2040. The sources are: nuclear, hydro, coal, natural gas, oil, solar, wind, and biomass/geothermal. In 2005, electricity generation in Canada was 614 terawatt hours (TW.h), 639 TW.h in 2017, and projected to increase to 720 TW.h in 2040. In 2005, the largest share of electricity generation was hydro (58%), followed by coal (18%) and nuclear (14%). In 2017, the largest share was hydro (60%), followed by nuclear (15%), and coal (9%) and natural gas (8%). In 2040, the projected generation mix is 59% hydro, 16% natural gas, 12% nuclear, 10% wind, 2% biomass and geothermal, and 0.30% coal.

There may be potential for more nuclear energy in Canada’s generation mix than is currently projected due to potential development of small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are small nuclear reactors with a generation capacity of 300 MW or less. Compared with conventional nuclear power plants, SMRs are less expensive and faster to build, can be scaled in size, and have more flexible site requirements.

Natural Resources Canada is developing a SMR Roadmap which involves funding to drive SMR development and deployment in Canada. More information on SMRs can be found at Natural Resources Canada and the World Nuclear Association.

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