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Ottawa — The Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA) announced that Canada’s wind energy, solar energy and energy storage sectors ended 2020 in a strong position, ready to expand significantly in 2021.

“Despite considerable challenges posed by the global pandemic, Canada ended 2020 with a total wind capacity of 13,588 MW, a total solar capacity of approximately 3,000 MW, significant growth in energy storage, and a positive forecast for 2021,” said Robert Hornung, President and CEO, CanREA. “In addition, growing corporate demand, coupled with policy commitments made by governments at all levels in 2020, promise strong and accelerating growth for our technologies in 2021 and beyond.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused supply-chain disruptions, energy-demand fluctuations and workforce health concerns, all of which temporarily delayed many renewable-energy projects from coming online in 2020, Canada continued to see activity in both large-scale solar and wind-energy construction this year. At least 70 MW of solar PV capacity was installed in 2020, along with an additional 166 MW of wind-power generation.

Wind and solar generation now meet 40 percent of electricity demand in Prince Edward Island and 18 percent in Nova Scotia, with the contribution now approaching 10 percent in other Canadian provinces.

With 240 MW of large-scale solar projects and 745 MW of wind projects already under construction across Canada, we anticipate significant expansion over the next year. Overall, we expect close to two gigawatts of wind and solar projects to be installed or to begin construction in 2021.

Wind and solar energy have contributed more to Canada’s installed electricity-generating capacity than any other technologies over the last decade. Much of this growth is attributable to significant cost reductions (see our blog on the subject, here), a product of game-changing technological improvements.

The field of energy storage is also growing rapidly: Canada currently has a total utility-scale energy-storage capacity of more than 130 MW / 250 MWh, 10 percent of which came online in 2020 alone.

With continued cost decreases, and emerging regulatory and market frameworks that will enable more energy-storage deployment, both utility-scale and smaller-scale (residential and commercial) energy-storage options are likely to see continued expansion in 2021.

For example, electricity-system operators and regulators are actively working on options for integrating storage on the grid, including a review of market rules in Ontario and Alberta, and pilot projects in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Despite its challenges, 2020 also promised significant new opportunities from all three levels of government. The Province of Saskatchewan and the City of Edmonton launched procurement processes, with Saskatchewan also seeking feedback on interest in battery storage projects in the province, while the Federal Government and the Province of Quebec each announced their intention to procure low-cost, non-emitting electricity in future.

The year ended on a positive note with the Federal Government announcing a new climate plan in December, and Quebec presenting its new electrification strategy in November. Wind, solar and storage are expected to play a central role in both in order to meet commitments for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Throughout 2020, renewable energy also continued to deliver for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints. Some examples include RBC signing a contract to procure green energy directly from BluEarth Renewables and Bullfrog Power, and Capital Power announcing new wind and solar projects intended to reduce their own overall emissions.

Facts at a Glance

· Total Canadian wind capacity: 13,588 MW
· New wind power generation installed in 2020: 166 MW
· Total Canadian solar capacity: 3,000 MW (approx., sites with greater than 1 MW capacity)
· New solar power generation installed in 2020: 70 MW
· Total Canadian energy storage capacity: 130 MW/ 250 MWh
· New energy storage capacity installed in 2020: 12 MW
· Capacity of solar energy projects currently under construction, for commissioning in 2021: 240 MW
· Capacity of wind energy projects currently under construction, for commissioning in 2021: 745 MW

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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