4.2 Research, development and demonstration (RD&D)


Federal RD&D spending targeting the energy sector has increased over the past four years, primarily through efforts tied to energy efficiency and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). These increases are consistent with Canada’s commitments to double this spending through the Mission Innovation initiative, a global initiative aimed at accelerating global clean energy innovation (Canada 2020).  

Figure 4.1 – Federal and Provincial/Territorial Public Expenditures on Energy RD&D #

Source: NRCAN 2021

From 2014 to 2017, growth in overall public spending (Figure 4.1) at the federal level did not compensate the significant reductions in provincial spending on energy RD&D, which peaked in 2014 before falling to a low point in 2016-2017. Although part of this decrease can be attributed to the completion of Saskatchewan’s Boundary Dam CCUS project in 2015, other provincial spending on energy RD&D also diminished. Since 2016-2017, the growth rate of federal spending has accelerated and provincial/territorial spending has also increased.

Table 4.3 – Expenditures on total energy RD&D by technology area ($ millions) #

Source: NRCAN 2021

The increase since 2016-2017 can be broken down along areas of research (Table 4.3). Eighty-two percent of federal spending was devoted to clean energy, including the nuclear sector, and energy end-use. Energy end-use and energy efficiency have constituted the bulk of the increase over the past few years and has more than doubled since 2017-2018.

In contrast, the share of clean energy and end-use makes up only 49% of provincial spending; the main driver of growth for this spending has been for fossil fuels RD&D, which amounted to $91 million in 2017-2018. Finally, industrial actors devoted a larger share of RD&D to fossil fuels, reflecting the size of the Canadian oil and gas industry.