Ontario's Bio Advantage Sector Profile

Spotlight on Bioenergy

Bioenergy is the use of renewable biomass-based resources like livestock manure, energy crops field crop residues (e.g. corn cobs and stalks) and wood pellets and municipal organic wastes to:

  • produce electricity for the power grid
  • generate heat and/or electricity for industrial, commercial, institutional, agricultural or residential uses
  • produce liquid fuel for use in transportation, e.g. ethanol and renewable diesel
  • produce gaseous fuel such as biogas and syngas, which can in turn be used to generate heat and power
  • produce renewable natural gas for addition to the pipeline or use as a vehicle fuel.

Biomass pellets

The Case for Bioenergy

Bioenergy makes good, clean sense for Ontario. The province is rich with resources, and bioenergy brings tremendous growth potential for the economy in manufacturing, forestry and agriculture. Governments, institutions and private industry are collaborating to capitalize on the many products and energy sources currently derived from fossil fuels that can be created renewably from biomass. Bioenergy can help meet energy demands and provide on-site energy benefits, while mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The following initiatives have helped support the use of bioenergy in Ontario:

  • Ontario's Green Energy Act (GEA) establishes Ontario as the North American leader in fostering next-generation renewable electricity. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Program through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) (now called the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)), offering a guaranteed long-term price to producers of renewable, green electricity.
  • The suite of programs for procuring electricity includes microFIT, Small FIT and Large Renewable Procurement.
  • Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the government-owned power generation utility, has converted its thermal plant at Atikokan to use wood biomass fuel - North America's largest power plant fuelled completely by biomass. OPG's Thunder Bay Generating Station has been converted from coal to advanced biomass
  • In 2004, Ontario announced a commitment to an annual average of five per cent ethanol in all gasoline sold in the province, starting January 1, 2007. The Ontario Ethanol Growth Fund helped establish a strong domestic ethanol industry in Ontario. The Ontario government has achieved the goals set through the Ontario Ethanol Growth Fund (OEGF). OEGF program has helped fostered a domestic ethanol industry that is already producing over 1.01 billion litres of ethanol annually (2013-2014), created over 300 skilled jobs in rural Ontario, generated over $635 million in capital investments, and improved air quality in the province. Ontario has six ethanol facilities currently in operation, of which five have benefited from OEGF funding
  • A Greener Diesel Regulation went into effect on April 1, 2014 and is being phased in over three years. By 2017, the amount of biofuel blended into regular diesel will need to average at least four per cent. Greenhouse gases must be reduced by at least 30 per cent in the first phase by 2015, and 70 per cent by 2017, for the biofuel portion of the new blend.

Ontario's Bioenergy Advantage

  • Vast agricultural and forestry resources - water and land - and a favourable climate to grow diverse crops, resulting in an exceptionally diverse industry
  • Extensive research and development (R&D) capacity with 20 universities (18 of Canada's top 50), 24 colleges and a globally significant agri-innovation cluster
  • Highly skilled work force
  • Network of innovation and commercialization support through established organizations and funding
  • Availability of bio-based feedstock from agriculture, food processing, and forest sectors
  • Government policy supporting bioenergy/biofuels development and growth
  • Close proximity to markets and industrial processing centres.


Ontario is driving innovation in biogas (anaerobic digestion) systems in Canada and has been a focus of development in North America. The market growth in Ontario biogas systems capitalizes on modern Ontario and European technology. The Independent Electricity System Operator's (IESO) Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) Program has electricity prices for different sizes of biogas systems. The three-year Ontario Biogas Systems Financial Assistance Program supported the development of 25 new and expanded biogas systems that are now generating electricity and heat. There are now over 30 systems in Ontario and many additional biogas developers are applying to the FIT program.

Ontario's biogas systems use many feedstocks - primarily manure, food processing byproducts, and other organic material. Ontario has the largest food processing industry in Canada. Using byproducts from the food industry (e.g. fats, oils, grease and non-usable food wastes) in biogas systems creates another removal option and captures energy that would otherwise have been lost. Biogas systems also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by capturing the methane gas from these byproducts and converting it to energy. The methane destroyed in the energy conversion process has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The energy generated also offsets power that would have been generated in part by fossil fuels.

The renewable natural gas from biogas systems can supply a carbon-neutral source of energy to natural gas users, including natural gas vehicles and transport trucks. According to the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Association, this can reduce the transportation energy footprint to near zero!


Biofuels are renewable alternatives to gasoline, diesel fuels and natural gas, produced from renewable agricultural feedstocks (e.g. corn for ethanol) and food processing byproducts (e.g. biodiesel from used restaurant oils).

Ontario currently uses 16.5 billion litres of gasoline and 8.1 billion litres of diesel fuel every year. Ontario gasoline consumption comprises 37 per cent of the entire Canadian marketplace while Ontario diesel consumption makes up 25 per cent.

Ontario is home to six of Canada's 20 ethanol production facilities and five out of ten biodiesel facilities.


More about Ontario's Bio Advantage:

Author: Elin Gwyn KTT Analyst, RIB
Creation Date: 9 August 2011
Last Reviewed: 14 April 2016