State of Solar Energy Across Canada & Its Potential

Nov 23, 2015

On the world stage, Canada is in the top 20 solar electricity markets based on installed capacity. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the cumulative photovoltaic (PV) power capacity of utility-connected PV systems in Canada grew to 1,843 MW in 2014, with 1,828 MW coming from Ontario, and the remaining 15.18 MW coming from the rest of Canada. So, 99% of Canada’s cumulative PV power capacity of utility-connected systems is in Ontario. The province that comes second to Ontario is Alberta with 6.437 MW. This means that SolarShare produces more clean electricity from its 34 projects with an installed capacity of 6.645 MW than the utility capacity of the entire province of Alberta!

Photo Credit: Natural Resources Canada

Canada has massive potential for growth in the solar electricity market. In 2004, solar electricity capacity in Canada was close to zero, and now it is at 1,828 MW! Natural Resources Canada’s data shows that there is PV potential in every province across Canada, with various hot spots that have greater potential.

Photo Credit: PV Potential and Insolation, Natural Resources Canada
Updated graph and data as of 2017

The Canadian Solar Industry’s (CanSIA) vision for Canada’s solar electricity industry, is that in 2020, “solar electricity will be a mainstream energy source and an integral part of Canada’s diversified electricity mix,” and “the industry will be sustainable, with no direct subsidies, and operating in a supportive and stable policy and regulatory environment that recognizes the true value of solar.” By 2020, it is predicted that solar electricity will provide 1% of the electricity generation across the country, at nearly 6,300 MW of installed capacity.

So what needs to be done to remove the barriers to solar electricity installation? As CanSIA identifies, we need to:

  1. Develop a supportive and stable policy and regulatory environment that recognizes the total value of solar electricity, including externalities.
  2. Simplify and streamline permitting and processes for grid interconnection and metering of solar electricity systems.
  3. Reduce soft costs (such as permitting, financing and maintenance costs) to levels consistent with global best practices.
  4. Educate the Canadian population on the true benefits and costs of solar electricity, and empower them to take action to support and adopt solar.
  5. Develop new and enhance existing relationships with technologies, applications and stakeholders to create synergies that enable greater solar electricity use in Canada.

One of our major goals at SolarShare is to continue our work on number 4. We want to cut through the myths about solar energy, and we are motivated to share the true benefits and costs of solar electricity by engaging Canadians and allowing them to have a stake in renewables.

As for the other barriers, this is something that we can all work towards by being engaged citizens and pressuring all levels of government in Canada to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. You can support this goal by attending events such as the 100% Possible March in Ottawa on November 29th. Find out more about how you can get free transportation from multiple locations across Ontario as a SolarShare member, or how you can book your own seat on one of the buses being organized by Environmental Defence here>>