In the aftermath of the Paris agreement on climate change, a number of Canadian companies are poised to capitalize on the demand for clean energy solutions.
Canada has more than 800 advanced technology companies involved in the clean technology sector, according to according to the 2015 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report from Analytica Advisors. That includes a wide range of businesses from wind and solar, to those that help to treat water and reduce energy and emissions.
Of these Canadian clean tech companies, more than two thirds (68 per cent) are exporters now deploying their innovations in markets around the world.
“We have the benefit of having a lot of Canadian companies with remarkable solutions,” said Lynn Côté, Sector Advisor, Infrastructure and Financial Services, Export Development Canada (EDC).
“What’s more, an increasing number of them are at the inflection point where they are in early commercialization and starting to see an uptake in sales,” she says. “It’s a very exciting time.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Canadian investors have been relatively slow to invest in homegrown clean energy companies, compared to some other countries, Côté says.
She said much of the support has come from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a federally funded agency that provides early-stage financing to clean energy innovators, as well as EDC.
“EDC is uniquely placed, through the services that we have and our network in Canada and abroad, to really help small and medium sized enterprises go, grow and succeed,” Côté says.
She points to clean-tech examples in industries such as mining and oil and gas, where companies are developing technologies to help to reduce the amount of energy used in the sector, as well as treat and recycle water.
The benefits aren’t just environmental, but also help resource companies save money, which in turn helps to maintain jobs, Côté says.
“This is an economic driver for Canada, not a feel-good effort, even though it does feel good,” she says.
The clean tech industry today employs about 50,000 Canadians, according to the Analytica Advisors report, which is more than the forestry and logging industry as well as the aerospace sector. If the sector can maintain its current eight per cent growth rate, it will employ 100,000 Canadians by 2022, the report says.
The rate of job growth in Canada’s clean energy sector is also outpacing that of every other sector in the country, aaccording to Clean Energy Canada’s Tracking the Energy Revolution – Canada 2015 report.
It also says Canada now ranks sixth in the world for investment in new domestic clean energy generation projects. Investment in new clean-power generation approached $10.7 billion in 2014, an 88-per-cent increase over 2013 and the best year ever, according to the report.
Momentum in the sector is also building with the election of a new government in Canada, which has promised to make the environment a high priority.
New climate change policies in provinces such as Ontario and more recently Alberta, and continued work in B.C. are also highlighting the opportunities for businesses in the clean tech sector.
“The future for this entire sector has changed, almost overnight,” says Nancy Wright, chief operating officer at the Vancouver-based sustainable business organization GLOBE Series, which for the past 25 years has gained international recognition for hosting biennial events focused on the ‘business of the environment.’
“There is a tone of renewed optimism out there,” says Wright.
She expects investment in the sector to increase at all levels of governments, as well as from the private sector, including from financial services companies and pension funds.
“I think we’re going to start to see money unlocking with new capital investments,” says Wright.
Côté believes it’s a historic time for Canada when it comes to battling the harmful impacts of climate change.
“Canada has a willing government and agencies that are supporting it and understand what needs to happen,” she says. “The time is now to fix this.”