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Energy consumption by the manufacturing sector

Released: 2021-10-27

Energy consumption by the manufacturing sector

2 033 petajoules


-7.2% decrease

(annual change)

In 2020, energy consumption by the manufacturing sector fell 7.2% to 2 033 petajoules compared with 2019, slightly lower than the amount of energy consumed during the 2009 recession.

Throughout 2020, governments across Canada implemented public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures—such as lockdowns, travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential businesses—limited economic activity. In manufacturing, temporary closures and the suspension of operations, as well as disruptions in global supply chains, contributed to changes in demand for products and the reduction of some activities.

The decline in manufacturing industry operations resulted in lower energy requirements. In 2020, the manufacturing sector consumed 2 033 petajoules of energy as part of the production process, down 7.2% from 2019. One petajoule equals approximately the amount of energy required to operate the Montréal subway system for a full year. Real sales for the manufacturing sector dropped 10.3%, and the annual average capacity utilization rate fell 6.6% during this period.

Although energy consumption and real sales had been increasing since 2015, this decline in manufacturing operations resulted in a 3.7% decline in energy consumption from its 2015 level, while real sales were down by 2.6%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Energy consumption and real sales of goods, all manufacturing industries
Energy consumption and real sales of goods, all manufacturing industries

Paper and primary metal manufacturers are the top energy consumers

In 2020, the top energy consumers were paper and primary metal manufacturers, which together accounted for almost half (48.8%) of all energy consumed by the manufacturing sector. Petroleum and coal products and chemical manufacturing made up another 27.4%. Though their energy consumption has fallen over the years, the top energy consumers have remained relatively unchanged since the survey began in 1995.

Although paper and primary metal were the largest energy consumers, they accounted for just over one-tenth (11.2%) of the total real sales of goods manufactured (shipments) in 2020. Food, transportation and petroleum and coal products continued to account for the largest share of manufactured goods.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Energy consumption by manufacturing industry, 2019 and 2020
Energy consumption by manufacturing industry, 2019 and 2020

Energy consumption in the transportation manufacturing equipment industry falls by almost one-fifth

The largest declines in energy consumption occurred in the primary metal and paper manufacturing industries (-97.5 petajoules for both), down 11.5% for primary metal and 6.7% for the paper manufacturing industry. The annual average capacity utilization rate for the paper industry fell from 76.8% to 68.3% during the pandemic. Economic factors such as decreasing demand for newsprint and increasing costs of operations resulted in some mills closing indefinitely. In addition, this industry was affected by shutdowns in businesses, government offices and schools, which also lowered demand for paper.

Lower demand for petroleum products due to lockdowns and travel restrictions during the pandemic contributed to the 6.1% decrease in energy consumption for the petroleum and coal product industry.

Energy consumption in the transportation equipment manufacturing industry fell by almost one-fifth (-19.2%) in 2020. Real sales of both motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and aerospace products and parts were lower in 2020 due to travel restrictions and order cancellations.

Miscellaneous manufacturing energy consumption increased by 7.1%. This category includes businesses that produce medical equipment and supplies, including personal protective equipment such as clothing and masks, which were required during the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Natural gas and electricity are the largest sources of energy consumed

Natural gas and electricity, the most common sources of energy, are used in all industries.

In 2020, natural gas accounted for almost one-third (31.8%) of the total energy consumed by the manufacturing sector. The largest consumers of natural gas were the chemical and the primary metal manufacturing industries which, combined, consumed 40.5%.

Electricity accounted for 29.7% of total energy consumption. The primary metal industry and the paper manufacturing industry were the largest electricity consumers, accounting for 60.1%.

Spent pulping liquor, consumed solely by the paper manufacturing industry, made up 11.3% of the total energy consumed, while wood, which was primarily used by the wood product and paper manufacturing industry accounted for 8.2%. Refinery fuel gas, mainly consumed by the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry, made up 6.4%, and all other energy sources combined accounted for the remaining 12.7% of total energy consumed.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Energy consumed by type of fuel, manufacturing industry, 2019 and 2020
Energy consumed by type of fuel, manufacturing industry, 2019 and 2020

  Note to readers

The Annual Industrial Consumption of Energy Survey, sponsored by Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, estimates the energy consumed by type of fuel in Canadian manufacturing.

The 2020 survey estimates are based on a sample of 4,702 manufacturing establishments, which represents a weighted response rate of 84.4%.

A joule is a derived measure of energy or work. One gigajoule is equal to one billion (109) joules. The energy content of a 30-litre tank of gasoline is about one gigajoule, and six gigajoules are roughly equivalent to the amount of potential energy in one US standard barrel of oil, when consumed. One petajoule is equal to 1015 joules or one million gigajoules. One petajoule approximately equals the amount of energy required to operate the Montréal subway system for one full year.

Other energy sources include butane, coal, coal coke, coke oven gas, heavy fuel oil, middle distillates, petroleum coke, coke from catalytic cracking, propane and purchased steam.

Electricity consists of both purchased and self-generated electricity.

Totals and percentages may not add up because of rounding.

Manufacturing sales are from Table 16-10-0013-01.

Manufacturing capacity utilization rates are derived from Table 16-10-0012-01.

Data for 2019 have been finalized. Data for 2020 are subject to revision.

Contact information

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