Canadian REA forecasts ‘bright’ future despite challenging 2020

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Although Canada is a relatively nascent solar market compared to the U.S., the country relies heavily on hydropower for its clean energy and has even implemented federal and provincial goals to phase out coal use for electric power generation.

As for other types of renewables, the Canadian industry is growing and shows great promise.

At least that’s the conclusion that can be drawn from a new report by the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA). The group said that Canada’s wind, solar, and energy storage sectors ended 2020 in a strong position, with the industry ready to expand significantly in 2021.

“Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, Canada ended 2020 with a total wind capacity of 13,588 MW, a total solar capacity of roughly 3,000 MW, significant growth in energy storage, and a positive forecast for 2021,” said Robert Hornung, president and CEO of CanREA.

As in the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic caused supply-chain disruptions, energy-demand fluctuations, and workforce health concerns in Canada–all of which temporarily delayed many renewable energy projects from coming online in 2020.

The numbers

According to CanREA, Canada installed at least 70 MW of solar PV capacity in 2020, along with an additional 166 MW of wind power.

The group said wind and solar generation now meet 40% of electricity demand in Prince Edward Island and 18% in Nova Scotia, with the contribution approaching 10% in other Canadian provinces.

According to CanREA, wind and solar energy have contributed more to Canada’s installed electricity-generating capacity than any other technologies over the last decade. Much of this growth is attributable to significant cost reductions caused by technological advances.

CanREA said the energy storage market is also growing. Canada currently has a total utility-scale energy storage capacity of more than 130 MW/250 MWh, 10% of which came online in 2020 alone.

Image: CanREA

Looking ahead

With 240 MW of large-scale solar projects and 745 MW of wind projects currently under construction across Canada, CanREA said it anticipates significant expansion in the country’s non-hydro renewables industry over the next year.

Overall, the group expects close to 2 GW of wind and solar projects to be installed or begin construction in 2021.

The group also forecast continued expansion for utility-scale, residential, and commercial storage, thanks to cost decreases and emerging regulatory and market frameworks.

CanREA noted that electricity system operators and regulators are actively working on options for integrating storage on the grid, including a review of market rules in Ontario and Alberta, and pilot projects in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Opportunities

Despite the year’s challenges, CanREA said 2020 offered new opportunities from multiple levels of government. The Province of Saskatchewan and the City of Edmonton launched procurement processes, with Saskatchewan also seeking feedback on interest in battery storage projects in the province. And the federal government and the Province of Quebec both announced their intention to procure low-cost, non-emitting electricity in the future.

(In January, the federal government opened a request for proposals to buy new clean electricity in the province of Alberta to power federal operations there.)

CanREA said the year ended on a positive note, with the federal government announcing a new climate plan in December and Quebec presenting its new electrification strategy in November. Wind, solar, and storage are expected to play a central role in meeting the greenhouse-gas emissions targets.

Throughout 2020, renewable energy delivered for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints. For example, RBC signed a contract to procure green energy directly from BluEarth Renewables and Bullfrog Power, Capital Power announced new wind and solar projects intended to reduce their overall emissions.

“Customer interest in wind and solar energy is increasing, and there is a lot of optimism within the industry,” said Hornung. “We are ready to deliver the renewable energy solutions that will be central to Canada’s energy transition, with benefits for all Canadians.”

More data from CanREA can be found here.

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