Currently, electricity accounts for 40 per cent of total residential Canadian energy use and is expected to grow to 42 per cent by 2040.  Varistor60 photo via Wikimedia. 

Electrification of space and water heating will drive electricity demand in Canadian energy use

The NEB’s latest long-term outlook, Canada’s Energy Future 2018 (EF 2018), explores the role of electricity in Canadian end-use demand.

Electricity currently accounts for 40 per cent of total residential energy demand. By 2040, this share grows to 42 per cent in the Reference Case and to 51 per cent in the Technology Case. In the commercial sector, electricity currently makes up 33 per cent of demand. By 2040, this share grows to 37 per cent in the Reference Case and to 49 per cent in the Technology Case.

Electrification of space and water heating in those sectors drives the growth of electricity demand.

In Canada, technologies used to heat homes and businesses vary by province and territory. The main type of heating system in a region usually depends on the availability and relative cost of heating fuels.

For example, low electricity prices in Quebec encourage electric baseboard heating. In Atlantic Canada, oil furnaces and electric heat are more common, in part due to limited pipeline infrastructure to distribute natural gas.

In provinces that already have a high share of electric space heating, efficiency improvements and heat pumps could reduce electricity use. In provinces like Quebec, replacing electric baseboard heating by heat pumps reduces electricity demand.

In contrast, switching to heat pumps increases electricity demand in some other provinces. Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan largely use natural gas to heat homes and, when this is partially replaced by heat pumps, electricity demand grows because heat pumps run on electricity.

The graph below illustrates residential and commercial demand by fuel for all Canadian provinces and territories in the Reference and Technology Cases. To explore how demand for electricity is projected to change in the different regions of Canada, simply click on the provinces and territories to bring up the corresponding chart.

Residential and commercial demand by fuel for all Canadian provinces and territories in the Reference and Technology Cases to 2040

The NEB’s Exploring Canada’s Energy Future data visualization tool also provides various ways of looking at electricity demand trends.