This article was published by the Canada Energy Regulator on January 2, 2020.
Every year, around 40 companies import electricity into Canada from the United States (U.S.) through international power lines.
In 2010, 44 companies imported 19 terawatt hours (TW.h) of electricity from the U.S. As of October 2019, 33 companies imported 12 TW.h (Figure 1).Footnote1 In comparison, Canada exported 50 TW.h during the same period.
Electricity trade volumes, including import volumes by company and province, are published monthly by the CER in its Commodity Statistics.Footnote2
Canada’s electricity import volumes are low relative to exports because each province’s generating capacity normally exceeds its daily or even hourly requirements. Powerex Corp., which is owned by the provincial crown corporation BC Hydro, is the largest importer by far as explained in the paragraph below.
Figure 2 shows electricity imports by province. British Columbia (B.C.) was responsible for 84 per cent of Canada’s electricity imports. Although B.C. has generating capacity to meet internal demand, it tries to maximize the value of its generation by trading with the U.S.
During the day, when U.S. electricity prices are higher, B.C. increases its hydroelectricity generation and exports electricity to the U.S. to earn more revenue. Overnight, when U.S. electricity prices are lower, B.C. significantly reduces its hydro generation, letting its hydro reservoirs refill while importing cheap electricity from the U.S.
- To put this in perspective, Canada consumes around 540 TW.h a year (CER, Macro Indicators, end-use demand).
- Volumes by importing company and province are in “Table 2B – Import Summary Report by Destination, Authorization and Exchange Type”.
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