Quick facts about hydropower in Canada

Canada has very long history in harnessing hydropower. In 1885, a first hydropower power plant became operational near Montmorency Falls and provided electricity for the city of Québec.  Today, hydropower accounts for more than 60% of electricity generated in Canada. There are only three other countries in the world Norway, Brazil, and Venezuela that have a higher share of hydropower in their electricity portfolio.

According to the 2021 data, Canada is the fourth largest hydropower producer in the world, behind United States, Brazil and China. There are provinces and teritorries such as British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Yukon that produce over 90% of their electricity from hydropower.

At the end of 2021 Canada had 82,307 Megawatts of installed hydropower capacity. The recent studies have estimated 155,000 MW of untapped hydropower potential in Canada.

Small hydro is also very popular in Canada with currently 3,400 MW of installed capacity and an estimated potential of 15,000 MW.

Hydropower currently provides close to 50000 jobs in Canada (2022 data).

Quebec is the leading Canadian province/territory in installed hydropower capacity. There are over 40 850 MW of installed hydroelectric capacity In Quebec with hydropower generating 94% of Quebec’s electricity (2022 data).

The The Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE), a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line, should deliver 1,250 megawatts of clean electricity from Canada’s Hydro-Québec to New York City when it becomes operational in 2026.

Technologically speaking, Canada’s hydropower plants are among the most efficient and technically advanced, converting up to 95% of the mechanical energy of water into electricity.

The hydropower opponents in Canada usually point out environmental concerns such as  low oxygen content in reservoirs, disruption of natural fish migration and increased likelihood of sedimentation in rivers.

It also has to be mentioned since there are large number of hydroelectric plants already built, it has become more difficult to find suitable sites, especially since constructing large hydro power plants is connected with very high upfront costs.