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Winds of change

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Canadians have long taken advantage of geography to generate electricity from water: hydroelectricity is our leading renewable energy source. Now Canada’s governments and businesses are investing in new sources of renewable energy.

Our fastest-growing renewable energy sources are wind and tidal energy—clean and abundant sources that are economical to produce and fairly reliable where winds and climate are suitable. In 2000, Canada’s winds and tides were harnessed to produce 971,873 megawatt hours of electricity, more than triple the output in 2000. However, this comprised only 0.2% of the electricity generated in Canada that year. Hydroelectric generators produced 58% of our electricity.

Alberta, already a star in fossil fuels, also generates the majority of Canada’s electricity produced from wind and tide—64% in 2004. Quebec is second, accounting for 19%. Quebec also produces half the country’s hydroelectricity.

Wind and tidal electricity made up 1% or less of the electricity produced in each province and territory in 2004, with one exception: Prince Edward Island generated 73% of its electricity production from wind and tide.

Other renewable energy sources are being developed. Canadian businesses spent $204 million on research and development (R&D) of alternative energy sources and technologies in 2003. More than 40% of that spending went to technologies to store energy or to alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Improvements to hydroelectric generation accounted for 14% of R&D spending, and solar energy, 11%. Only 7% of alternative energy R&D spending went to biomass energy, carbon dioxide capture and wind power technologies combined.