2017 Snapshot: How does Canada make energy?

Energy is an important component of our economy, employing almost a million people and accounting for a full 10% of our GDP.

Canada has abundant energy resources, including: oil, gas, coal, hydro, wind, solar, marine, geothermal and uranium.

Did you know...

… that Canada has its own nuclear reactor technology called CANDU that is used around the world?

Canada’s Energy Industries

  • Electricity icon

    Hydro: Canada is the world’s second largest producer of hydroelectricity. We have over 500 hydro facilities that can produce enough electricity to power nearly 32 million homes.

  • Renewable icon

    Renewables: Wind Power has become the second largest renewable power source in Canada, producing almost 4% of our electricity. The generating capacity of wind energy is almost 18 times what it was in 2005.

  • Barril icon

    Oil and Gas: Canada is the world’s fifth largest producer of natural gas and fourth largest producer of oil. The Canadian oil and gas industry supports over 600,000 jobs.

  • Nuclear icon

    Nuclear: Canada has 19 operating nuclear reactors that supply 16% of our electricity. The industry directly supports about 30,000 jobs with an economic impact of $6 billion.

Emerging Trends

As we move towards a low-carbon economy, established renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power are becoming cheaper and more widely available. Meanwhile, innovative clean oil and gas technologies and carbon capture, utilization and storage are helping us to extract our fossil fuels more sustainably with significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, there is more that can be done to prepare Canada for a global low-carbon economy. Emerging areas, such as cost effective energy storage, advanced smart grid technologies, digitization, and the automation of industrial processes will enable a more efficient extraction, processing and use of our energy resources.

Establishing new pathways for clean energy solutions is also important to Canada’s future, and has the potential to transform our economy. Canada is turning its attention to accelerating the development of longer-term, high-impact clean energy breakthroughs that will deliver solutions for 2050 and beyond, whether it be disruptive technologies, alternative business or funding models, or capacity building activities.

Government of Canada Actions

The Government of Canada is supporting the development and commercialization of clean energy technologies to help Canada address pressing environmental challenges like climate change and to advance clean, sustained economic growth for years to come. For example:

  • Funding clean energy research, development and demonstration projects under the Energy Innovation Program, including investing in technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector and accelerating emerging renewable energy technologies toward commercialization.

  • Investing in green infrastructure such as energy efficient buildings, electric vehicle infrastructure, and clean energy solutions for northern communities.

  • Supporting projects from provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous governments, businesses, and others that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Low Carbon Economy Fund -- an important component of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

  • Committing, with more than 20 other countries, to doubling federal investments in clean energy innovation by 2020 as part of Mission Innovation.

New technologies like biomass are beginning to change Canada’s energy mix.



My name is David Paré. I’m a research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service. My research work focuses on the sustainability of forest ecosystems.

Forest biomass offers real environmental advantages, but we also have to ensure that using this biomass does not compromise ecosystem functions. So our research work focuses on specifying the quantities of biomass that can be harvested without harming the forest.

Bioenergy is any form of energy produced from biomass. And biomass can be defined as any material derived from living organisms. For example, all the parts of a tree are considered biomass.

Forest biomass comes from three sources: mill residues, forest harvest residues and plantations deliberately grown for energy production.

We can burn this biomass through direct combustion to produce heat; we can also use it to produce electricity or biofuels.

Bioenergy from a forest is a source of energy that is carbon lean and if it comes from a sustainably managed forest, it is a source of energy that will be perpetually renewable. It is also a source of locally produced energy and so, for communities located close to forests, it is an energy source that is accessible and reliable.

The forest industry has been using bioenergy in mills for several decades. Pulp and paper mills, and sawmills, use waste in the form of sawdust and bark to produce energy. This energy is already available right where it is needed; there is no need to transport it. It reduces costs, but it also saves large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Forest biomass is plentiful in Canada, but when it comes to our requirements, the quantities cannot cover all our needs. So we will have to use this biomass as efficiently as possible.

There is a growing interest in using biomass from logging sites. This is what we call the forest residues that consist of branches and non-commercial species—in other words, biomass that is not used by other industries.

Our research at the Canadian Forest Service is attempting to specify the quantities of biomass that can be removed from a forest without harming it.

Important questions that need to be answered include: how much biomass can be harvested? And in what type of ecosystem can we harvest biomass? While at the same time ensuring the functions of that ecosystem are maintained— that the forest continues to grow at a normal rate and that it continues its functions of maintaining biodiversity, air and water quality, and so forth.

For example, we have experimental sites where we harvest different quantities of biomass and we measure the effect on the soil and on forest growth.

Canadians are very attached to their forests. Forests produce a range of goods, but at the same time, everyone wants a healthy forest, a productive forest and a beautiful forest. The focus of our work therefore, is to ensure, that using the forest does not undermine its qualities.

Energy production in Canada by resource: Natural Gas (26%), Coal (6%), Hydro (6%), Other renewables (3%), Uranium (22%), NGLs (3%), Crude oil (34%). Source: NRCan estimates, based on StatsCan data

Need some context?

If you’d like to know more about Canada’s energy systems and the emerging global trends in policy and technology that influence them, download our context paper. This paper, prepared by NRCan energy experts, will provide background on energy use in Canada, the current policy environment, the Generation Energy process, and some key questions to consider as you participate.

If you’d like more detail on a certain topic, visit the Submissions Library.