Canada is one of the leading G20 greenhouse gas emitters per capita, and even though the country’s renewable energy sector has been thriving, it’s often not enough to curb the production of environmentally harmful byproducts.
A new announcement has addressed the next steps of a clean-energy transition while also spelling opportunity for cleantech to prosper even more than it has.
Last week, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna confirmed Canada’s plans to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030, a decision that most of Canada agreed with, but some provinces opposed and tried to fight. The initiative is part of Canada and the U.K.’s Powering Past Coal Alliance which has attracted more than 30 different governments and business members whose combined wealth tops $170 billion.
“Phasing out coal is good news for our climate, for our health, and for our kids,” said McKenna. “I’m thrilled to take the next steps in powering past coal in Canada, with regulations to end the use of traditional coal power, in 2030. We know the environment and the economy go hand in hand, so we’re committed to making that transition a fair one for coal workers and communities. The task force we’re launching today is a big step toward meeting that commitment.”
The task force McKenna is referring to is the Just Transition Task Force which will provide the minister and government with recommendations on how to make this transition away from coal a fair one for both workers and communities. The task force will hear from different groups through the end of 2018 then prepare a report that outlines the best possible transition.
One of the best things to come from this confirmation of a coal phase-out is the opportunity for Canada’s cleantech sector to grow even more. Already leaders in the scene, Canada has produced hugely innovative companies, especially for being such a relatively small consumer on the global scale.
In 2018, Canada had the most ever companies on the Cleantech 100, a list by the Cleantech Group that highlights organizations pushing the boundaries in renewable energy creation and consumption. Well-known names in the field like ecobee and Enerkem were joined by smaller startups including Carbon Cure and Semios.
The 13 companies on the list show the Cleantech Group’s “barometer reading of the global innovation community’s shifting views on which companies, and which types of companies, are most likely to have big commercial impact in a 5-10 year timeframe,” which falls right in line to when Canada will be preparing for a coal-free electricity system.
“The minister’s announcement today is just smart policy,” explained Stuart Lombard, founder and CEO of ecobee. “The cost of delivering clean, renewable energy is dropping quickly and renewable energy is already cheaper than conventional energy sources in many parts of the world. This massive disruption creates a once in a lifetime opportunity for Canadian Cleantech companies. It is great to see that the Government understands this opportunity and is taking action to help ensure Canadian companies can lead the change.
At the same time, MaRS is taking Canadian cleantech expertise south of the border to expand the international presence of homegrown talent. They partnered with Boston’s Greentown Labs, the U.S.’s largest cleantech accelerator, to help energy-focused companies grow and scale to a high degree. Companies like Toronto’s Peak Power will look to use the MaRS-fostered relationship to build their presence and make an impact on the scene.
Building on that, EDC’s Cleantech Export Stars in 2017 were Hydrogenics, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies and Xebec Adsorption. These three companies best bridge the gap between domestic and international success, a clear indicator that Canada has talented startups that can not only champion homegrown problems but international ones as well.
And it’s hard to can’t forget companies like ecobee, Corvus Energy, MyHEAT and General Fusion. As nominees of the Canadian Innovation Awards‘ Energy & Sustainability category, they are showing what it means to be cutting-edge in a sector where deviation from the norm is, well, the norm.
This is all capped by the federal government’s recent decision to invest $700 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada over the next five years to fund the country’s cleantech industry.
“Clean technology crosses all sectors of the economy, creating jobs while reducing our impact on the environment,” said Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources. “The federal government is helping companies and researchers that are pursuing clean tech projects to identify the right support for their business. We’re putting Canada on the map as a global source of clean growth solutions.”
Cleantech isn’t only important to the environment—it is important to Canada’s economy, as that massive investment signifies. In 2016, clean energy accounted for more than 56,000 jobs and contributed $25.4 billion to the GDP—or 1.3 per cent in total.
Canada is already an extremely cleantech-and-renewable-friendly country, as 80 per cent of the country’s electricity comes from renewable or non-emitting sources. But as the rush to phase out coal and make an impact in the overall reduction of greenhouse gases becomes imperative closer to 2030, Canada’s cleantech sector will be here to handle the load—without any harmful byproducts to be seen anywhere.