Canada has just passed. We’ve all spent the weekend celebrating all our country has to offer, but did you know that one of the reasons our country is so great is that it still contains such tremendous resource potential? Canada’s diversity doesn’t stop with its cultures. It also provides a diverse range of energy resources to its energy sector—whether or not those resources are currently being used to their full potential. Some, like oil and natural gas, we are very familiar with. Others, like solar and geothermal, are on the developing edge of an industry that is now beginning to focus more and more on diversification. Canada is currently the 5th largest global producer of energy, so let’s take a look at how that energy production breaks down.
Oil and Natural Gas
Oil and natural gas reserves are located in seven major sedimentary basins across the country. Our primary petroleum-producing basin is the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), but we also have producing basins in southern Ontario, offshore Newfoundland, the Scotian Shelf, and more potential reserves in Northern Canada. These basins represent significant proven reserves of crude oil (178 billion barrels).
While many coal plants are shutting down across the country, Canada still represents close to 1% of the world’s coal resources, 97% of which are found in the Western Provinces. Canada’s coal production has multiple uses, including electricity generation (thermal or steam coal), and steel production (metallurgical coal produces the coke that works both as a heat source and a reducing agent in the steel manufacturing process).
While Canada only has 8% of the world’s unmined uranium resources (a common element found in the Earth’s crust, soils, and oceans), it accounts for 25% of global primary uranium production. The nuclear industry in Canada is home to 7 nuclear plants and creates 15% of Canada’s electrical power (and 50% of Ontario’s).
Hydroelectricity is electricity that is generated by falling or flowing water that moved turbine generators to produce electricity. Canada is home to 632 large dams, 6 major dams, and in 2014 was home to 542 hydroelectric stations with 78,359 megawatts of installed capacity.
Bioenergy is energy produced from biological material in solid, liquid, or gaseous form that has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. The most commonly used type of biomass is wood, which can be combusted to produce heat energy, but methane, sewage, manure, and agricultural waste can also form biomass. The second most important form of renewable energy in Canada, the country had 70 bioenergy power plants with a total installed capacity of 2,043 megawatts in 2014.
Canada has a huge and growing potential for wind capacity. In 2014, Canada had over 5,130 wind turbines operating on 225 wind farms (with a total installed capacity of 9,694 megawatts).
With the current government initiatives and technological innovations, the solar industry is set to grow in Canada. As of 2014, Canada’s installed solar capacity reached 1,843 megawatts.
Geothermal energy harnesses energy from the heat stored beneath the earth’s surface (or from the absorbed heat in the atmosphere and oceans) to produce electricity or for heating and cooling. In 2010, more than 95,000 ground-source heat pumps were producing about 1,045 megawatts of thermal energy (MWth) across Canada (approximately 1,420 gigawatt hours annually).
Otherwise known as ocean energy, tidal energy harnesses the immense energy of ocean waves and tides into usable energy. Canada’s large coastal access means tidal energy represents significant potential—especially since Canada is home to the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world with a vertical tidal range that can exceed 16 meters—however, we are still awaiting the technological developments to make this a truly efficient resource. Canada currently has a tidal power plant in Nova Scotia with a generating capacity of 20 megawatts of electricity.