Recent patterns of energy use in Ontario

Good data are available on Ontario's energy use, although not on use within the Central Ontario Zone. It's likely that the patterns of energy consumption in the Central Ontario Zone are similar to those for the whole of Ontario, chiefly because about two thirds of Ontario residents live in the Zone and a higher proportion of business activity is located there. The main differences in patterns of energy between the Central Ontario Zone and the rest of Ontario likely result from the Zone's generally milder climate and the greater presence of the commercial sector in the Zone. The latter factor may be offset by the greater concentration in the rest of Ontario of energy-intensive industries, notably steel, nickel, and copper production.

The key Ontario trends are shown in Figure 1.3 "Other fuels" are mostly coal and related fuels used directly by industry

Figure 1: End-use energy consumption in petajoules, 1990-2000

Between 1990 and 2000, the last year for which complete Ontario data are available, overall energy use increased from 2,367 to 2,687 petajoules,4 i.e. by 13.5%. Oil use increased at a higher rate, but natural gas use was increasing even more quickly until the warmer winters of the late 1990s curbed demand. Meanwhile, population grew by 13.6%.5

Table 1 shows how the various fuels were used in 2000.6 Oil was used mostly for transportation; "other fuels" were used mostly for industry. Natural gas and electricity were each shared somewhat evenly among the industrial, residential, and commercial sectors. Overall, industry was the biggest user of energy--32.9% of total use--with transportation close behind.

Table 1. End use of energy in Ontario by sector, 2000














Natural gas














Other fuels







All fuels







End uses are shown in Figure 1 and Table 1, i.e., the energy content of the fuels actually used in cars, furnaces, machines, and light bulbs. If energy supply is being considered, the fuels used to generate electricity must be taken into account. In 1999, 43% was produced from nuclear energy and 24% from hydroelectric sources. Thermal generation produced the remainder with 24% of the total amount generated coming from coal, 7% from natural gas, and 2% from oil.7 Thus, when electricity production is taken into account, the 1999 totals for oil and natural gas use in Ontario were a little higher and closer together than is indicated in Figure 1, and the total for coal (within "other fuels") was quite a bit higher.

Figure 2 shows that during the 1990s in-building uses and transportation gained on industry as the major user of energy in Ontario.8 Energy use for freight transport grew at a particularly high rate (44.9% over the ten years), but movement of people used more energy. Energy use for agriculture also increased substantially, but from a small base.

Figure 2. End use of energy in Ontario by sector, 1990-2000

In 2000, space heating and cooling comprised about 60% of the energy use by each of the commercial and residential sectors in Ontario. In total, space heating and cooling consumed 566 petajoules of energy, somewhat more than the 479 petajoules used for moving people.

3. The data in Figure 1 are from the National Energy Use Database of the Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada, available at the URL below. A petajoule is 1015 joules (see Footnote 4). Although these data differ in detail from those provided in the recent report of the Ontario Legislature's all-party Select Committee on Alternative Fuel Sources (see Footnote 28), which came from the National Energy Board, the differences are not important for the present purposes. Natural Resources Canada data are used here because they are more comprehensive and consistent across several years. Accessed June 26, 2003.
4. A few words about the energy units used in this paper: The basic energy unit in the metric system is the joule. This is a small amount of energy in everyday terms. About 8 joules are required to raise the temperature of a teaspoonful of water by 1degC. (1055 joules are equivalent to a British Thermal Unit or Btu.) A gigajoule is a billion joules (109). A petajoule is a million gigajoules (1015). A watt is a joule of energy being produced or used for one second. Thus a 100-watt light bulb uses 100 joules in a second. Ten such bulbs use energy at the rate of one kilowatt (103). If they are alight for an hour they use a kilowatt-hour of electricity, equivalent to 3.6 million joules (i.e., 1000 x 60 x 60). Also used are terawatt-hour (1012), equivalent to a billion kilowatt-hours or 3.6 petajoules, and gigawatt, equivalent to a billion watts or a million kilowatts.
5. According to Statistics Canada, CANSIM Series V468558, Ontario's population grew from 10,299,571 in July 1990 to 11,697,569 in July 2000.
6. The data in Table 1 are from the source detailed in Footnote 3. Institutional and government uses are included in the commercial sector. Street lighting (about 0.5% of electricity use) is not included, nor are international travel and international freight movement.
7. The information about the fuels used for Ontario's electricity generation comes from Figure 4.6.3 of Canadian Electricity: Trends and Issues, National Energy Board, Ottawa (May 2001), available at the URL below. Accessed October 7, 2002.
8. The data in Figure 2 are from the source detailed in Footnote 3.