Marine renewable energy (MRE) from waves, tides and river currents has been harnessed for centuries – powering mills, transporting nutrient-rich sediment, moving vessels, supporting marine life migration – but only over the past few decades has it become more of a focus for its vast untapped reserve of power. Seventy-one per cent of the Earth’s surface is composed of moving water, all containing energy that can be converted to electricity.
Theoretical estimates for global MRE potential indicate resources exceeding 100,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, equal to the power needs of over 8 billion Canadian households 1 – more than the current power demands of the entire planet.
Canada continues to deepen its exploration of MRE as a potential solution to clean energy, greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction, and economic growth targets.
Given the country’s natural resource assets as well as existing expertise in the marine sector, ocean waves, wind, tides, salinity, temperature differences and river currents can all contribute to Canada’s clean energy bottom line. Canada has an estimated 35,700 megawatts (MW) of tidal energy potential, enough clean power to displace over 113 million tonnes of CO2 (equal to removing over 24 million cars off the road). Adding wave and river, the potential climbs to 340 gigawatts, enough energy to power every home in Canada five times over. The country’s offshore wind energy potential is still being mapped, but projected to be larger still.
The opportunity includes both large-scale transmission projects and small, distributed community generation. Over 300 companies have already found work in the Bay of Fundy’s emerging tidal stream sector. A total of 251 remote Canadian communities rely on their own fossil fuel plants; 176 of them are fueled by imported diesel. Canada is now demonstrating river current technologies that offer remote communities a solution that can be cost competitive, avoid emissions, and create jobs.