The Renewable Energy Landscape in Canada: A Spatial Analysis

60 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2016

Date Written: January 29, 2016


Numerous strategies for sourcing renewable energy are available for development and expansion, yet for many countries the idea of eventually transitioning to a completely renewable energy supply using domestic resources currently appears unfeasible. As a large country with low population density, Canada may be expected to face fewer obstacles in this regard. However, not only are Canada’s population centres clustered largely in its south, but energy policy is significantly devolved to the level of provinces, making a match between energy demand and renewable supply more challenging. In this paper, in order to address this challenge, we present a scenario of renewable portfolios at the provincial level. We explicitly estimate the optimal sites, based on straightforward criteria, for development of each resource. In order to keep the analysis transparent, we focus on physical feasibility rather than economic details and, by lumping together all energy demand, we assume substitutability of demand between electrically-provided and fuel-based energy delivery. Our assessments include wind, solar, hydro, tidal, wave, and geothermal energy, with a limited discussion of bioenergy. For comparison, we also break down current energy demand in each province according to categories intended to be meaningful to households. We find that overall with current technology Canada could more than provide for its energy needs using renewables, two-thirds of which would come from onshore and offshore wind, with much of the remainder coming from hydro. We find each province individually to be easily capable of renewable energy self-sufficiency at current levels of demand, with the exception of Ontario and Alberta. We believe this is the first combined, geographically-resolved inventory of renewable energy sources in Canada.

Suggested Citation

Barrington-Leigh, Christopher and Ouliaris, Mark, The Renewable Energy Landscape in Canada: A Spatial Analysis (January 29, 2016). USAEE Working Paper No. 16-246, Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Barrington-Leigh (Contact Author)

McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy

Charles Meredith House
1130 Pine Avenue West
Montreal, Quebec H3A1A3


Mark Ouliaris


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