Canada’s wind, solar and energy-storage sectors grew by a steady 11.2 per cent this year, according to the new annual industry data report released by the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA).

The industry added 2.3 GW of new installed capacity in 2023, including more than 1.7 GW of new utility-scale wind, nearly 360 MW of new utility-scale solar, 86 MW of new on-site* solar, and 140 MW / 190 MWh of energy storage. Canada now has a total installed capacity of more than 21.9 GW, including 20.4 GW of utility-scale wind and solar energy, 1.2 GW of on-site solar and 356 MW / 539 MWh of energy storage nationwide.

Looking ahead, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in these industries, as the nation works to meet 2035 and 2050 net-zero targets. This year’s greatest success stories were found in Atlantic Canada, the North and, notably, Alberta. Other provinces saw no growth in their wind, solar or energy storage sectors in 2023, due to their lack of centralized procurements and corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) offerings—but progress is expected and is, in many cases, underway.

“Canada’s wind, solar and energy storage industry had a relatively good year in 2023, but it fell short of the trajectory needed to meet net-zero targets,” said Vittoria Bellissimo, CanREA’s president and CEO. “Canada has massive, untapped wind and solar resources that can be harnessed to provide the affordable, clean electricity needed in all jurisdictions. What is needed is more geographic diversity. We need to increase the pace of buildout, and we need to see deployment in all provinces and territories.”

Growth in renewable energy and energy storage has positive implications for jobs and for the economy: As it grows, the sector is emerging as an important force for job creation, primarily in the construction of new facilities, but also in the ongoing operations and maintenance of these sites. In 2023, Canada’s wind and solar industries accounted for more than 4,950 person-years of employment, having increased by 11 per cent this year (up from more than 4,460 in 2022).

CanREA advocates provincially and federally to create favourable policy and regulatory environments for the procurement and deployment of wind, solar and energy storage. On that front, there was much to celebrate in 2023, with many provinces announcing net-zero pathways and procurement plans.

Taking all these announced procurements into account, Canada could reach nearly 58 GW of renewable energy and energy storage capacity by 2035.

Even this, however, is less than what is needed to support national and international targets for the energy transition: COP28 set a global goal of increasing renewables threefold by 2030, and CanREA’s 2050 Vision, Powering Canada’s Journey to Net-Zero, stated that Canada needs to deploy more than 5 GW of new wind and solar energy every year to meet its commitment to net-zero GHG emissions. See Figure 2.

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“In 2024, CanREA will continue to advocate for policy and regulatory changes, focusing on the jurisdictions with the greatest potential for growth, to unlock the enormous opportunities offered by renewable energy and energy storage and their benefits for all Canadians,” said Bellissimo.

At the end of 2023, Canada had 21.9 GW of installed wind, solar and energy storage capacity, distributed across its provinces and territories as shown in this map. (Credit: CanREA.)

Regional breakdown

Alberta’s remarkable progress

Alberta accounted for 92 per cent of Canada’s overall growth in renewables and energy-storage capacity in 2023.

The province saw steady, reliable growth again this year, on both the solar and wind fronts. Alberta added 1.7 GW of installed capacity this year, higher than its 1 GW increase last year. Alberta now has a total of 5.8 GW of renewable energy generation (4.4 GW wind and 1.4 GW solar) as well as 212 MW / 260 MWh energy storage capacity.

Of note, the pause on approvals announced by the Alberta government in August 2023 did not impact projects that already had approvals in place. As such, this change had no impact on Alberta’s 2023 growth numbers and is expected to have a limited impact on 2024, with 1 GW of projects already under construction.

Make no mistake, however, the pause and the investor uncertainty it creates will have impacts that will be felt in 2025 and beyond. Specifically, CanREA is tracking 8.3 GW of projects under development in Alberta. Of these, 3.9 GW of projects had the potential to come online in 2025, along with a further 4.4 GW of proposed projects with later commissioning dates, which are all now at risk.

While Alberta has led the country in renewables growth for several years, its progress in the near future will depend on a stable and supportive investment and policy climate, to compete with other provinces that are now looking to scale up significantly in renewables.

Growth in the North

There was welcome growth in the Territories in 2023. Wind made impressive gains in Yukon, moving from 0.2 MW to 4 MW total, as well as in the Northwest Territories, adding 3.2 MW in Inuvik (Enercon). CanREA’s data team is also tracking 1.5 MW of projects in advanced development and 4 MW of proposed projects in Yukon, all of which are utility-scale solar or hybrid solar/storage hybrid projects.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, CanREA is currently tracking 200 MW of projects under construction, 800 MW of wind and solar projects, and a single 20 MW battery site with 20 MWh capacity, all currently in advanced stages of development, as well as 350 MW of wind projects in the proposal stage.

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Saskatchewan’s longer-term (procurement) outlook includes 600 MW of wind and solar in south central Saskatchewan expected to be in-service by 2027, up to 1 GW wind and solar in the southwest by 2030, and 1 GW of wind and solar for 2030-2035.

For the moment, however, the current total installed capacity in Saskatchewan remains the same as last year, at 660 MW (629 MW wind, 31 MW solar, 0.4 MW / 0.7 MWh energy storage).

Ontario 

Ontario’s installed capacity is still the largest in Canada, at more than 7.5 GW (5.5 wind, nearly 2 solar, more than 100 MW storage), and while this total did not increase this year, it will soon, as Ontario invests in energy storage.

CanREA is tracking 429 MW of storage projects that are already in advanced development, including the 250 MW Oneida Project (led by CanREA members Northland Power, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and Aecon, as well as NRStor), and another 407 MW in proposed energy-storage projects.

There is no new wind or solar development expected in the short term (2024-2025) in Ontario, but the longer-term outlook includes up to 2 GW of new wind and solar by 2030-2031, and up to 3 GW of additional new wind and solar by 2034. In addition, recent and ongoing procurements will bring the total provincial energy storage capacity up to about 3 GW by 2028.

Quebec

In Quebec, CanREA’s data team is closely watching the construction of the Apuiat project (from Boralex and the Innu Nation), which will represent 200 MW of additional capacity when it comes online (expected in 2024).

Quebec currently has the third-highest installed capacity of wind and solar energy and energy storage in Canada, at more than 4 GW (nearly all wind, with less than 12 MW of solar and 1.8 MW of storage). While this total did not increase in 2023, there is a very strong opportunity for growth in the long term.

Knowing that Quebec needs to produce an additional 150-200 TWh to meet electricity demand by 2050, Hydro-Quebec’s recent Action Plan relies heavily on new wind, solar and energy storage to meet the need for an additional 60 TWh by 2035.

Specifically, the utility intends to triple wind-power generation by integrating more than 8 GW of wind capacity into the grid by 2030, and 2 more by 2035. It also intends to establish the province’s first pumped-storage facility with a 1 GW capacity, and to facilitate the installation of solar panels on the homes of more than 125,000 customers by 2035.

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British Columbia

B.C. currently has 746 MW of capacity (742 MW wind, 2 MW solar, 2 MW storage) and, in future, BC Hydro plans to acquire 3,000 GWh of renewable energy per year—we expect the details to be revealed in 2024.

Atlantic Canada

Parts of Atlantic Canada were home to growth in 2023, with New Brunswick adding 42 MW of wind (the Burchill Wind project from Natural Forces) and PEI adding 31 MW of utility-scale solar (City of Summerside and PEI Energy Corporation), as well as some energy storage.

The outlook for renewable energy is also looking bright. CanREA is currently tracking a total of 296 MW of projects in advanced development across the Atlantic region (280 MW onshore wind, while the rest includes both utility-scale solar and energy storage). Significant numbers of MWs could come online in the next few years.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick has less than 0.4 GW of installed capacity at this time (almost all wind, with a small amount of solar and 1.25 MW of storage), but it has big plans for the future. New Brunswick’s new energy strategy includes a 12-year road map and supporting strategies for the province to meet national and international clean-energy transition targets. It aims to increase renewables five-fold by 2035, adding 1.4 GW of new wind power, 0.2 GW of grid-scale solar power, an additional 0.1 GW of energy storage, and 0.3 GW of onsite (behind-the-meter) solar.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia currently has just 0.6 GW of installed capacity (nearly all of it wind plus a very small amount of solar), but it is poised for significant growth. The Rate Base Procurement, the PHP project and the Roswall project should add a substantial number of megawatts into the Nova Scotia grid in the coming years. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s recent 2030 Clean Power Plan aims to add more than 1 GW of new wind capacity, more than 300 MW of solar, and 300 to 400 MW of battery storage by 2030, with the potential for offshore wind post-2030. What’s more, solar net-metering is now well-established in Nova Scotia, on-site solar is growing each year, and the province’s Green Choice procurement has begun, with more coming every 18 months.

To download a summary of CanREA’s latest industry data, visit CanREA’s “By the Numbers” webpage.

*See “BTM Solar: Canadian Market Outlook: How Behind-the-Meter (BTM) solar can contribute to Canada’s net-zero future,” for more information on rooftop and on-site solar in Canada.

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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