A common way to measure energy intensity is to look at the ratio of energy production and use to GDP. This is a better measure than per capita energy use because energy use is affected, to a large degree, by per capita income. Measuring energy production and use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) controls for the effect of country income.
To measure energy intensity, we use a country’s primary energy supply per unit of GDP. Primary energy supply refers to all energy produced within a nation in its raw form—crude oil, coal, hydro, raw natural gas, etc. Primary energy supply measures energy before it is transformed into the fuels we use (crude oil vs. gasoline, coal vs. electricity, etc.) and therefore includes energy used in conversions from one form to another (in power generation, for example). It also reflects all energy production, including energy that is supplied to export markets. But it does not include energy imported from other nations.
Increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy intensity should be a policy goal for Canada and its peer countries as a way to mitigate climate change and conserve energy. For a sustainable energy future, Canada must encourage economic activity and GDP growth that does not rely on increased energy consumption.