Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada

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Key highlights

Over the 1990 to 2015 period,
  • Energy efficiency improved 26.5%, saving 1,766.1 PJ or $38.2 billion in energy and avoiding 94.8 Mt of GHG emissions.
  • Secondary energy use (final energy demand) in Canada increased 30%. It would have increased 55% without energy efficiency improvements.
  • Canada’s energy intensity per unit of GDP improved 27.5%
One petajoule is approximately equal to the energy used by more than 9,000 households in one year (excluding transportation).

  Energy use and GHG emissions

In 2015, the five sectors of the economy (residential, commercial/institutional, industrial, transportation, and agriculture) used a total of 9,012.9 PJ of energy.
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Secondary energy use by sector, 2015

Distribution of energy use Percentage
Residential 17.1
Commercial/Institutional 11.2
Industrial 39.3
Transportation 29.3
Agriculture 3.1
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GHG emissions by sector, 2015

Distribution of GHGs Percentage
Residential 13.4
Commercial/Institutional 9.2
Industrial 36.3
Transportation 37.3
Agriculture 3.7

In 2015, the industrial sector used the most energy but the transportation sector produced more GHGs, given the greater use of motor fuel.
Natural gas and electricity were the main types of end-use energy purchased in Canada.

Motor gasoline and other oil products (diesel fuel oil, light fuel oil, kerosene, and heavy fuel oil) represented about 32% of energy use.

Note: Measure is based on final energy use, which does not include producer consumption, feedstock and energy losses.

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Secondary energy use by fuel type, 2015

Distribution of energy use Percentage
Electricity 19.8
Natural gas 30.6
Motor gasoline 17.1
Other oil products 15.0
Aviation gasoline 0.02
Aviation turbo fuel 3.0
Petroleum coke and still gas 5.2
Wood waste and pulping liquor 4.3
Other fuels* 3.2
Residential wood 1.8
*Other fuels include coal, coke, coke oven gas, liquefied petroleum gas and gas plant natural gas liquids, and waste fuels from the cement industry.

The industrial sector used the most energy, consuming 3,540.5 PJ in 2015, while energy use in the transportation sector has been growing faster than that of the industrial sector (40% over the 1990–2015 period).

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Total final demand and growth by sector, 1990 and 2015 (petajoules)

1990 2015 Growth
Residential 1425 1544 8%
Commercial/institutional 746 1009 35%
Industrial 2710 3540 31%
Transportation 1878 2637 40%
Agriculture 199 282 41%

Canada’s GHG emissions excluding electricity-related emissions increased 32% between 1990 and 2015, while emissions including electricity-related emissions grew 22%.

GHG emissions related to electricity generation have observed an overall decrease because the fuel mix to generate electricity changed significantly. In particular, the share of coal used for electricity generation fell from 25% in 2008 to 16% in 2015.


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Total GHG emissions and growth by sector, 1990 and 2015 (Mt CO2e)

1990 2015 Growth
Residential 72.8 65.4 -10%
Commercial/institutional 41.0 45.2 10%
Industrial 141.2 177.6 26%
Transportation 132.3 182.31 38%
Agriculture 13.5 18.6 38%

The difference in the shares of energy and emissions is driven by the dominance of refined petroleum products in the transportation sector, providing a more GHG-intensive energy mix.

  Energy intensity

Energy use increased much slower than GDP.

The Canadian population grew 29% (approximately 1.0% per year) and GDP increased 78.7% (about 2.3% per year).

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Final energy demand, Canadian population and GDP, 1990–2015 (Index 1990=1)

Final energy use index Total GDP index* Total population index
1990 1.0 1.0 1.0
1991 1.0 1.0 1.0
1992 1.0 1.0 1.0
1993 1.0 1.0 1.0
1994 1.1 1.1 1.0
1995 1.1 1.1 1.1
1996 1.1 1.1 1.1
1997 1.1 1.2 1.1
1998 1.1 1.2 1.1
1999 1.1 1.3 1.1
2000 1.2 1.3 1.1
2001 1.1 1.4 1.1
2002 1.2 1.4 1.1
2003 1.2 1.4 1.1
2004 1.2 1.5 1.2
2005 1.2 1.5 1.2
2006 1.2 1.6 1.2
2007 1.3 1.6 1.2
2008 1.2 1.6 1.2
2009 1.2 1.5 1.2
2010 1.2 1.6 1.2
2011 1.3 1.7 1.2
2012 1.3 1.7 1.3
2013 1.3 1.7 1.3
2014 1.3 1.8 1.3
2015 1.3 1.8 1.3
* Data source: CANSIM 379-0031, GDP at basic prices in $2007 constant dollars.

Energy intensity, defined as the amount of energy required per unit of activity (GDP), improved 27.1% between 1990 and 2015; this reflects how effectively energy is being used in producing one unit of GDP.
Energy use per capita showed little change, reflecting the increasing use of electronic goods, increasing ownership of passenger light trucks and increasing distance and weight of goods transported by heavy trucks.
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Energy intensity per capita and per unit of GDP, 1990-2015 (Index 1990=1)

Energy intensity per capita Energy intensity per GDP
1990 1.00 1.00
1991 0.97 1.00
1992 0.97 1.00
1993 0.98 1.00
1994 1.01 0.99
1995 1.03 0.99
1996 1.03 1.00
1997 1.04 0.97
1998 1.01 0.91
1999 1.02 0.89
2000 1.05 0.87
2001 1.01 0.83
2002 1.03 0.84
2003 1.04 0.84
2004 1.06 0.83
2005 1.04 0.80
2006 1.02 0.77
2007 1.06 0.79
2008 1.03 0.77
2009 0.99 0.77
2010 1.00 0.76
2011 1.01 0.76
2012 1.00 0.75
2013 1.02 0.76
2014 1.02 0.75
2015 1.00 0.72

  Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improved 26.5% since 1990. This translated into approximately 1,766.1 PJ energy use reduction, 94.8 Mt of GHG emissions avoided, and saved Canadians $38.2 billion in 2015.

One of the greatest sources of energy is the energy we save. We isolate and track the amount of energy saved through energy efficiency by identifying and measuring the other factors impacting energy use. These include:

  • The activity effect is the increase in energy use due to the growth in the economy. Over the 1990-2015 period, the activity effect was 4,238.5 PJ, with a corresponding 224.8-Mt increase in GHG emissions.
  • The structure effect is how the changing make-up of the economy influences energy use. For example, some industries may have growth subsectors that are more-or-less energy intensive than others. Over the 1990-2015 period, the economy moved toward less energy intensive industries, reducing energy demand by 722.4 PJ and GHG emissions by 29.3 Mt.
  • The weather effect measures the impact of hotter or colder temperatures over time on energy use. In 2015, the winter was colder than in 1990 and the summer was a little warmer, resulting in a net energy use increase of 5.7 PJ and a 0.2-Mt increase in GHG emissions.
  • The service level effect measures the uptake of equipment at home or in businesses. As the economy became more digital, the service level (or penetration of equipment of all types) resulted in increased energy use of 176.7 PJ and increased GHG emissions of 7.7 Mt.

The energy efficiency effect is the balance of the total change in energy use over time (1990-2015) less the impact of the identified factors above. As a result, in 2015 compared to 1990, the economy realized 1,766.1 PJ of energy savings and avoided 94.8 Mt of GHG emissions.

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Summary of factors influencing the change in energy use, 1990–2015

Petajoules
Total change in energy use 2055.8
Activity effect 4238.5
Structure effect -722.4
Service level effect 176.7
Weather effect 5.7
Energy efficiency effect -1776.1
Other* 123.4
* “Other” refers to street lighting, non-commercial airline aviation, off-road transportation and agriculture, which are included in the “Total change in energy use” but are excluded from the factorization analysis.

Steady increases in activity and, to a lesser degree, service level contributed most to increases in energy use. The structure effect resulting from a shift in production toward industries that are less energy-intensive resulted in a decrease of energy use especially from 2005. Steady energy efficiency improvement has been observed from 1990. However, this improvement has slowed down between 2009 and 2012. This could be attributable to the effects of the 2009 recession, when the industrial sector significantly lagged behind all other sectors in energy efficiency improvement.

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Historical trends of factors influencing final energy use, 1990-2015

Activity effect Structure effect Weather effect Service level effect Energy efficiency effect Other
1990 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
1991 30.3 -10.1 19.6 5.8 -116.8 -7.0
1992 106.2 25.9 70.5 14.3 -200.9 -6.8
1993 196.9 45.0 112.8 19.3 -253.6 -5.2
1994 340.57 55.4 82.2 27.6 -265.6 -8.2
1995 704.3 161.0 88.9 37.7 -413.6 11.5
1996 813.8 178.9 159.0 45.2 -494.4 24.1
1997 1129.1 136.6 72.6 55.6 -585.5 34.3
1998 1302.0 113.0 -108.5 64.5 -746.2 33.1
1999 1527.9 168.7 -46.64 72.8 -917.6 39.4
2000 1824.9 90.4 43.6 80.7 -955.5 49.2
2001 1873.7 3.6 -51.2 91.7 -1076.3 49.3
2002 2121.7 5.4 47.5 101.70 -1164.8 42.3
2003 2276.0 -31.0 67.13 111.19 -1137.0 48.0
2004 2580.69 -104.6 27.8 118.5 -1112.3 56.7
2005 2745.6 -181.7 19.9 127.02 -1277.6 67.8
2006 2920.4 -373.8 -85.1 132.6 -1286.2 69.3
2007 3062.9 -274.8 28.6 136.0 -1263.8 90.4
2008 3013.0 -352.4 40.3 141.1 -1294.3 93.2
2009 2840.1 -497.9 51.6 146.4 -1220.9 48.2
2010 3206.8 -508.1 -59.2 149.3 -1318.5 82.23
2011 3364.6 -545.7 -10.8 154.8 -1270.5 106.7
2012 3653.2 -711.7 -92.2 158.8 -1296.2 101.9
2013 3872.9 -703.8 13.4 161.6 -1378.6 120.0
2014 4124.0 -747.9 86.5 167.2 -1555.9 117.3
2015 4238.5 -722.4 5.7 176.7 -1766.1 123.4

Without significant ongoing improvements in energy efficiency in end-use sectors, energy use would have increased 55% between 1990 and 2015 instead of 30%. These energy savings of 1,776.1 PJ are equivalent to the energy use of about 39 million cars in 2015.

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Final energy demand with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990-2015

Energy use without energy efficiency improvements Energy use with energy efficiency improvements
1990 6957.1 6957.1
1991 6960.4 6844.1
1992 7143.1 6942.2
1993 7320.1 7066.5
1994 7599.8 7334.2
1995 7960.5 7547.0
1996 8178.0 7678.6
1997 8385.2 7799.7
1998 8361.2 7615.0
1999 8719.2 7801.6
2000 9045.9 8090.4
2001 8924.2 7847.8
2002 9275.6 8110.8
2003 9428.2 8291.2
2004 9636.1 8523.8
2005 9735.7 8458.2
2006 9620.5 8334.3
2007 10000.3 8736.5
2008 9892.4 8598.1
2009 9545.5 8324.6
2010 9828.0 8509.5
2011 10026.8 8756.4
2012 10067.1 8770.9
2013 10421.3 9042.6
2014 10704.2 9148.8
2015 10779.0 9012.9

Over 94 Mt of GHGs were avoided in 2015, resulting from energy efficiency improvements in Canada. The transportation sector was the largest contributor at 47% of total GHG savings, followed by the residential sector at 29%. The industrial sector contributed about 16% and the commercial/institutional sector 8% of total GHG savings.

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GHG savings by sector, 2015

Mt CO2e
Total economy -94.8
Residential -27.8
Commercial/institutional -7.6
Industrial -14.9
Transportation -44.5