3.3 Energy productivity


With the exception of Iceland, Canada surpasses all the other OECD countries in per capita energy use.1 Its per capita consumption is almost twice as large as the OECD average. This position can partly be explained by the industrial and transportation sectors’ profiles and the country’s climate. What is particularly noteworthy is that energy intensity in Canada is also higher than in other comparable economies (Figure 3.9). 

Figure 3.9 – OECD members energy use and intensity (2015) #

Source: WDI 2021
Note: Iceland, at 732 TJ energy use per capita and 17 TJ per $1,000 GDP, is omitted from this plot, to facilitate reading.

From 1995 to 2015, Canada was one of the top three worst performers on each of these indicators. This is particularly noteworthy given the significant decrease in energy intensity over the previous two decades (-34.1% between 1995 and 2015), showing that this decrease was not enough for Canada to catch up to other economies. Energy use per capita also stagnated over the same period (-4.4%), which suggests that efficiency improvements were barely sufficient to keep it from growing. Decreasing energy intensity implies that a smaller quantity of energy is needed to satisfy similar needs: therefore, this

decrease and a stagnating energy use suggest a growth in the demand for energy services in the recent past. 

It should be noted that this situation is partly caused by the historical structuring of the industrial sector, where many energy-intensive industries (aluminium smelters, pulp and paper mills, oil and gas extraction and transformation) result in a higher energy intensity for the economy overall. Over the last two decades, the rapid growth of the energy-intensive oil and gas sector provides a partial explanation for the variation in energy use in primary energy across the provinces, with oil-producing provinces well above the country’s average. Alberta and Saskatchewan, the provinces with the largest oil production, post energy use levels per capita that are more than twice the Canadian average. 

However, even low-consumption provinces (by Canadian standards) record very high per capita levels compared to most countries as even less energy-intensive sectors tend to have lower energy efficiency (by OECD standards).


1 In Iceland, the expansion of energy-intensive industries like aluminum and the country’s very small population explain its outlier energy use profile.