Electric utility thermal plants generated 183.2 million MWh in 2020
By Anthony Capkun
November 25, 2021 – Last year, electric utility thermal plants in Canada generated 183.2 million MWh of electricity, reports Statscan, down 5.4% or 10.5 million MWh from 2019.
While there were offsetting movements of major thermal fuel sources, thermal electric generation declined in 2020, in part due to the pandemic and the subsequent fall in demand, reports Statscan.
Coal, uranium and natural gas continued to be the largest fuel sources used in 2020. Combined, these fuel types accounted for 95.9% of the total thermal generation of electricity.
Among the thermal fuel sources, coal showed the largest decline, with a drop of 19.3% or 8.6 million MWh in 2020. Generation from coal was the lowest level since 2005 at 35.9 million MWh. Coal generation fell in all provinces, with the largest provincial decline in Alberta (-19.1% or -5.3 million MWh).
At the national level, Alberta accounted for 61.5% of the total decline in coal-based electricity generation, Statscan notes, with Saskatchewan accounting for a further 24.9% of the decline.
Uranium was the second-largest contributor to the decline in electricity generation through thermal plants, falling 3.8% or 3.7 million MWh. This decrease was mainly attributable to a combination of lower demand, refurbishment and maintenance at certain nuclear stations in Ontario in 2020.
Natural gas was the only major thermal fuel source with a year-over-year increase in 2020, of 4.3% or 2.0 million MWh. Among the provinces that showed a decrease in coal-based electricity generation, there was a rise in use of natural gas as a source of thermal electricity generation—a pattern that has continued for a third consecutive year, says Statscan.