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Canada's Energy Outlook

Current Realities and Implications for a Carbon-constrained Future

Canada's Energy Outlook

This report analyses Canada’s energy system, and provides an objective assessment of future options to maintain energy security and meet climate commitments. Canadians need a viable and sustainable long-term energy strategy, based on availability, scalability, cost, environmental impacts and alternatives of all energy options.

The report serves as a definitive guide to Canada’s current energy realities and their implications for a sustainable future. It takes a detailed look at Canadian energy consumption, renewable and non-renewable energy supply, the state of Canada’s resources and revenues, and what it all means for emissions-reduction planning.

Visit energyoutlook.ca to view or download the full 180-page report, chapter summaries, and individual chapter PDFs.

Canadians enjoy a high standard of living underpinned by a reliable and secure supply of energy. Like many other countries, however, Canada is currently faced with some difficult decisions given the realities of climate change and the need to reduce emissions, as well as the finite nature of its fossil fuel supply. Even considering Canada’s position as the second-largest hydropower producer in the world, 63% of its primary energy comes from fossil fuels. On an end-use, delivered energy basis, 76% is provided by fossil fuels, with only 17% provided by electricity.

Canada is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement, and aspires to reduce emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Given the current status of Canada’s energy supply, these are very aggressive targets.

This report analyses Canada’s energy system and assesses future options to maintain energy security and meet climate commitments as a foundation for planning a viable long-term energy strategy. The report is divided into four parts:

Part 1 examines the evolution of Canada’s energy system in the global context in order to develop an understanding of where our energy comes from, trends in production and consumption, and the scale of the problem in maintaining future energy supply while minimizing environmental impacts. It looks at oil, gas, coal, hydro, nuclear and non-hydro renewables. It also looks at emissions and the correlation between economic activity and energy consumption, as well as trends in energy- and emissions-intensity.

Part 2 examines Canada’s remaining non-renewable energy resources. Existing oil and gas resources are assessed in terms of pay type, future viability, resource estimates and National Energy Board (NEB) projections of future production. It also examines jobs and government revenues from non-renewable resource extraction and the decline in royalty and corporate tax payments despite increasing production.

Part 3 examines electricity capacity and generation by fuel as well as NEB projections of future generation through 2040. Given that electricity is the principal output provided by renew- able sources, particular attention is devoted to generation from solar, wind, biomass and tidal energy. The implications of Canada’s mid-century scenarios for emissions reduction in terms of new capacity required and cost are also reviewed for each carbon-free generation source. This section also looks at renewable heating and liquid fuel sources including biomass, geothermal energy and biofuels.

Part 4 summarizes key considerations for an energy strategy and the projections provided in Canada’s pan-Canadian framework and mid-century strategy scenarios to reduce emissions by 30% and 80% from 2005 levels, respectively. It also reviews the implications of NEB projections of future energy production on Canada’s emissions-reduction targets. The low likelihood of success given the implications of the scenarios and projections is highlighted, along with key focus areas that will increase the chances of success in both emissions reduction and future energy security.

You can download the 28-page summary report or visit energyoutlook.ca to view or download the full 180-page report, chapter summaries, and individual chapter PDFs.

This report is part of the Corporate Mapping Project, a research and public engagement initiative investigating the power of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada. The CMP is jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Parkland Institute. This research was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

ISBN: 978-1-77125-388-8

Photo credit: Garth Lenz

David Hughes

David Hughes is an earth scientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada and the US for more than four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager, where he headed unconventional gas and coal research. His research focus has been on unconventional fuels, primarily shale gas and tight oil, but also coal, coalbed methane and other unconventional sources, including oil sands, coal gasification and gas hydrates. Hughes is currently President of Global Sustainability Research Inc, a consultancy dedicated to research on energy and sustainability issues.

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