Sun, wind or water? Public support for large-scale renewable energy development in Canada 

The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program uses the convening power of the university to bring together academic researchers and senior decision-makers from industry, government, Indigenous communities, local communities and environmental organizations to determine how to strengthen public confidence in energy decision-making.

PE Public Support for RE Technologies


A study from the University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. The study uses a national, representative survey dataset of Canadian citizens (n = 1407) to examine public support for three infrastructure-scale renewables: large hydropower, wind farms, and solar farms.  

The study, co-authored by Positive Energy research team members James Donald (University of Victoria) and Bryson Robertson (Oregon State University) together with their colleagues John Axsen (Simon Fraser University) and Karena Shaw (University of Victoria), explores levels of public support for renewable energy technologies across Canada and identifies some of the factors that influence individuals’ attitudes. Key research objectives are to:  

  1. Compare levels of public acceptance for large-scale solar, wind and hydro renewable energy and explore public perceptions of their impacts;   

  1. Explore and compare key factors that are hypothesised to influence individual attitudes in relation to public acceptance of the three technologies. 

Findings indicate that, while the Canadian public is currently in support of developing solar farms, wind farms and hydro dams, public resistance may increase once large-scale development of these technologies picks up. This insight reminds policymakers to not take public support for granted and helps them anticipate possible sources of public resistance to future development of renewable energy in Canada. With Canada’s ‘net-zero by 2050’ commitment in place, it is imperative for governments to better understand and address the factors that shape public acceptance of large-scale deployment of renewable energy technologies.