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Voices in support of climate change abatement and adaptation are growing as awareness across all areas of society about the importance of reducing our collective environmental footprint rises.

Yet good intentions are not enough and must be backed by decisive action, says Maike Althaus, executive director at Canada CleanTech Alliance and the Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association (OCTIA), who believes one area that can drive substantial impact is cleantech innovation.

“Without clean technologies, we’ll not be able to reach our climate targets and decarbonize our industries,” she says. “Canada has 14 companies on the 2022 Global Cleantech 100 list. While that’s a substantial achievement, we need to better leverage this advantage to compete in the global cleantech market and build the economy of the future.”

Feedback from companies and startups is that they don’t have the resources to understand what’s out there in terms of funding as well as navigate what often is a complex application process.

Maike Althaus, Executive Director at Canada CleanTech Alliance and the Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association

The work of the CleanTech Alliance as well as OCTIA – which comprise companies with hydrogen solutions, alternative fuels, alternative plastics, innovative renewable energy technology and more – aims to give innovations a better chance to go from idea to impact.

Ms. Althaus explains that while Canada excels in creating intellectual property, domestic adoption can fall short, and some of these technologies end up being implemented elsewhere. “We need to create a more supportive ecosystem,” she says. “Key issues the cleantech sector is facing are access to capital as well as access to customers, markets and talent.”

Enhancing access to capital can make a big difference in “enabling cleantech to move forward,” she says. Although there are a number of funding programs for clean technologies and climate adaptation available across Canada, they can be hard to navigate.

“Feedback from companies and startups is that they don’t have the resources to understand what’s out there in terms of funding as well as navigate what often is a complex application process,” says Ms. Althaus, who was recognized with a 2023 Canada’s Clean50 award. “We need to look into ways to simplify things and reduce barriers for cleantech entreprises.”

Governments can help to create a runway for technology adoption, for example, through government procurement, co-funding pilot projects or a loan guarantee program, she suggests. “Both federal and provincial governments can play a role, and provinces can complement what’s being done on the federal level.”

An example is the recent refundable 30 per cent investment tax credit (ITC) applicable to clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, small modular reactors and all forms of energy storage technology, which Ms. Althaus welcomes as a step in the right direction on the path to net zero.

“This can be a tremendous instrument to facilitate the flow of capital into cleantech,” she says, adding that it’s another indication that governments recognize the role of cleantech in creating economic benefits along with solutions for environmental challenges.

However, more efforts are needed to ensure no cleantech innovators fall through the gaps – and government incentives could inspire industry to pilot and adopt technology solutions, explains Ms. Althaus. “There is wide recognition that we need to decarbonize the biggest emitters – such as steel, cement, and oil and gas – to reach our climate targets, so these objectives could be leveraged in the form of economic tools.”

Cleantech applications can also play an important role in reducing the emissions associated with energy systems. “Ontario, for example, has to further decarbonize energy systems, yet the provincial government recently announced its decision to invest in more natural gas production, which will cause additional emissions,” she says. “This is a concern: we’d like to see more emphasis on cleaning up the grid. Not only do we have to add renewables to the Ontario grid, we have to enable distributed energy resources, including microgrids. We need to move from central electricity generation to decentralized systems.”

To accelerate renewable energy adoption, Ms. Althaus suggests innovative partnerships, such as co-operative investing models that draw on community participation. “This would be one way to get communities actively involved in these projects – and in seeing concrete benefits,” she says. “There are tons of technologies and ideas out there.

“Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, we need many creative ideas on how to increase the flow of capital into cleantech and new ways of adopting these technologies, for example, through community participation.”

As these clean technologies will helps us in the move towards a low-carbon future, they can be an important driver of economic and environmental benefits across sectors and in all areas of society, she adds.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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