Canada's clean-technology companies say new government initiatives focused on climate change, including the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership, are a positive step in the development and growth of the burgeoning sector.
One of the tenets of the new partnership, which was unveiled at the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa Wednesday, focuses on reducing trade barriers and fostering investment of clean-tech projects across the continent. The partnership also sets a North America-wide goal of 50 per cent clean-energy electricity by 2025, up from the current rate of 37 per cent.
Jon Dogterom, the managing director of Cleantech Venture Services at MaRS in Toronto, says the North American agreement presents Canada's cleantech industry with an opportunity to share its technology across borders.
"It's a good thing for us. As far as the 50 per cent challenge itself, Canada is already there, so that's not a massive achievement itself. But what is a massive achievement for us is talking to the U.S. and Mexico about how to help get them to that point," said Mr. Dogterom.
"The exporting opportunity on the technology side is the thing that excites the clean-tech innovators and companies we are working with."
The clean-tech industry employs over 55,000 people in almost 800 firms across the country, according to the 2016 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report released by Analytica Advisors in April. However, the report said growth in the clean technology industry stalled in 2014, due to capital constraints and a sluggish global economy. Revenues in the industry declined, from $11.7-billion in 2013 to $11.6-billion in 2014. Reversing the trajectory, according to the report, would require a price on carbon and rethinking environmental regulations and green infrastructure policies.
Both the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership, and Ontario's new Climate Change Action Plan, focus on fostering growth in the clean technology sector in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make existing technologies more energy-efficient.
The plans are good news for clean-tech companies, said Susan McGeachie, Ernst and Young's market leader for climate change and sustainability services.
"I think we need that certainty and clarity on what the government plans to do in order to move forward. In that absence, many clean-tech entrepreneurs and business people didn't have the information they needed in terms of their strategic direction," said Ms. McGeachie.
The clean-tech sector is still waiting on further details about these plans, particularly in regards to the province's Green Bank, which will help homeowners and businesses access and finance energy-efficient technologies. Many companies are hoping the Green Bank will help grow Ontario's clean-tech sector.
"A lot of it will come down to the governance of the Green Bank," said Mr. Dogterom. "It should be an arms-length entity from the government, have an independent board and have latitude over how it achieves results so it can respond to market forces at the time."
Because the clean-tech sector is a rapidly developing industry, Mr. Dogterom says the Green Bank group needs to be able to respond in real time.
Paul Mertes is the chief executive officer of CircuitMeter, a clean-tech company that builds submetered electrical measuring systems that can be monitored in real time, allowing businesses to better understand how they consume electricity and find new efficiencies. While Mr. Mertes is wary of an overuse of subsidies, he is encouraged by the provincial government's "aggressive and ambitious" plan.
"Overall, a change in our economy to low carbon is going to generate a lot of jobs and create a lot of efficiencies as well," said Mr. Mertes. "It's going to keep us competitive because the world is definitely changing to a platform of clean and efficient electricity."
EnerMotion is an Ontario-based clean-tech company that uses thermal energy storage technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from idling trucks. Jack MacDonnell, EnerMotion's chief executive officer says the new North American partnership is encouraging for the clean technology companies in Canada.
"This is a critical step," MacDonnell said. "We need to continue to move goods across the country, from coast to coast, but still achieve climate reduction targets. People have to be able to understand what clean technology means and what exactly the innovations will do for the environment."