Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Great Green North?: Canada’s Cleantech Industry

A Greener Economic Action Plan

All of this talk about economic crisis and recession has been a bit of a downer; however, out of almost any negative circumstance comes something positive, if you choose to look for it. The silver-lining in this context is that of opportunity to invest in new industries, specifically clean technology and sustainable development. Some countries, Canada among them, decided to respond to the international crisis by considering it as “an opportunity to change the way governments shape and implement economic development strategies” (ILO). The many countries that are embracing this position are investing in “green, clean and sustainable sectors, supporting the creation of sustainable enterprises and creating green jobs” (ILO).

So what exactly is clean tech and what are green jobs? Green jobs are jobs that are concerned with sustainability, these are jobs incorporating production methods and technologies that “address climate change, air quality, clean water and clean soil, providing solutions to key Canadian industries that increase efficiency and enhance environmental responsibility” (SDTC). Cleantech is a ‘driver’ of these green jobs and is also focused on “productivity, economic prosperity, a healthy environment, and high quality of life for all Canadians” (SDTC). Canada’s Green Job Initiative (a partnership of the ILO, UNEP, IOE, and ITUC) is focused on 3 specific policy measures to promote a ‘greener’ world economy:

  1.     Support communities, sectors, regions and workers, suffering from climate change, including through social dialogue and expanded social protection.
  2.       Promote investment in the creation of green jobs
  3.    Strengthen skills and vocational training systems to respond better to emerging needs in the labour market. 

Ultimately Cleantech is about creating jobs and an industry that has an environmentally responsible impact.  

This is part of Canada’s economic recovery plan because “a global transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy has a potential to create jobs across many sectors of the economy, and can become an engine of development” (ILO). In fact, “well-tailored green components of recovery packages” not only creates jobs, but also “stimulate[s] the economy while achieving wider objectives of cleaner production and energy savings” (ILO).

Seeing as the old industries are seeing slow improvement, and as was discussed in previous blog posts - we are headed towards an entirely different economy with different industries and therefore a different workforce - the emergence of the cleantech industry is one of those major shifts in industry. Luckily for us, it is one in which we have been proactive and are capable of competing in. According to Invest Ottawa, “It is anticipated through a number of sector economic development and forecasting reports, that by 2020 the cleantech sector will be the third largest industry, internationally,” just behind energy (oil & gas) and arms (guns, tanks and military weapons). Canada, as I said before, is in a good position to “take a lead position in the development and advancement of this potential economic powerhouse” (Invest Ottawa).

A Summary of Canada’s CleanTech Industry

Some of the major players in the Canadian Cleantech industry are Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Canadian Clean Technology Coalition.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is part of the Federal Economic Action Plan. They are committing $325 million over eight years to “continue to support the development and demonstration of new, clean technologies that create efficiencies for business and contribute to sustainable economic development” (SDTC).

The goal of the SDTC Tech Fund is to prepare Canadian companies for growth and export markets while helping the cleantech sector reach its potential as a key driver of [...] jobs, productivity and economic prosperity. The program is helping Canada take its spot as a top global cleantech innovator, participating in a sector estimated to be $4 trillion strong and growing. (SDTC)

The Canadian Clean Technology Coalition aims to increase the number of companies (and therefore jobs) in this sector, and to “create a coherent policy for  the clean technology sector that limits potential risks and can deliver on its economic, jobs and resource productivity benefits” (CCTC). They  advocate for “market friendly mechanisms to fully unleash the economic potential of this sector, create new sustainable jobs here at home and ensure that Canada takes its competitive place in the global cleantech market” (CCTC).
The CCTC offers a comprehensive list of the top 10 things that they deem everyone should know about Canada’s Clean Tech industry:

10 Things to Know about Canada’s Clean Technology Industry
1.       Canada’s clean technology industry is becoming an economic driver.
2.       Employing 52,600 people today (with potential for 100,000 before 2020) in over 700 companies across all regions of the country and part of a global supply chain.
3.       Is an industry estimated at $10.6 billion currently, potentially exceeding $26 billion in five years.
4.       Investing $1 billion per year in private sector R&D, to develop proprietary IP for products and services that efficiently use fewer resources and lower environmental footprint.
5.       In ten sectors focused on air, water, land, and energy.
6.       To serve industries such as aerospace, automotive, utilities, real estate, oil & mining, chemicals, and food.
7.       These clean technology companies are 9 times more likely to export than the average Canadian small and medium-sized enterprise.
8.       With 82% of companies exporting and…
9.       Export revenues projected for 70% of industry revenues by 2015
10.   The Canadian Industry is a leader in a global clean technology market valued at $1 trillion today and will be $3 trillion by 2020.

Indeed this is a smart industry to get into, whether employment-wise or through calculated financial investments, as the “Canadian clean technology industry grew by 9 per cent from 2011 to 2012, easily outstripping the economy as a whole. Based on current trends, this $11-billion industry is already on track to grow into a $28-billion industry by 2022,” with the right policies, investment, and industry engagement, however, Canadian cleantech “could become a $50-billon industry and employ 100,000 Canadians by 2022” (Bak, Peltier, and McNamara).

The question that should be popping into everyone’s mind right about now is what would a $50-billion clean technology industry look like? According to Bak, Peltier, and McNamara, it would be

woven within our natural resources and manufacturing sectors, driving innovation and market diversification, and winning 2 percent of global market share. It would also transform Canadian international development, bringing together Canadian clean technologies, our trading partners and international financial institutions to help countries clean their environments and transition to clean energy economies.

The three Toronto Star writers also believe that “Canadian clean energy companies can compete head-to-head with fossil fuels, making solar power cheaper than natural gas and cellulosic ethanol.” Anything that can compete with the fossil fuel market is worth considerable consideration. The Canadian oil and gas sector exports about $100 billion a year. Competing with this type of revenue is a huge piece of pie that Canada is smart to have proactively taken a bite out of. Currently, “three-quarters of Canadian clean technology companies are exporters, with 42 per cent of product sales going to non-U.S. countries” (Bak, Peltier, and McNamara), so other countries are already noticing Canada’s active stance and powerful position within this emerging industry.

Some Clean Tech Companies and What they are Doing

Because it offers close proximity to world-class research and talent available in government labs and government departments setting policy and technical standards, “Ottawa is home to Canada’s largest concentration of clean energy and technology researchers, scientists and engineers” (Invest Ottawa). That being the case, it is also home to a large concentration of cleantech companies.

Some of the leading cleantech companies are:
  •          Thermal Energy International Inc.
  •          Energate Inc.
  •          Enerkem
  •          Triacta Power Technologies
  •          Ensyn Corporation
  •          Earth Innovations
  •          Plasco Energy Group Inc.
  •          Cooter Muck Probiotics
  •          BluMetric
  •          Waste Management
  •          Johnson Controls
  •          Wesco
  •          Honeywell
  •          Enbridge

These companies are providing competitive and responsible solutions in the areas of: renewable energy generation, energy infrastructure, and energy efficiency; water treatment, waste diversion, conversion and management; and remediation, green buildings, and resource efficiency in built environments. (Invest Ottawa)

What Does this Mean for the Future?

Like any major change in economy, it brings about the need for other changes as well. With the development of green jobs and the cleantech industry, there will be an emergence of new skillsets that will be required in the workforce. As the International Labour Organization puts it, “investments and enterprise development for a greener economy include demand for new competencies and a different kind of entrepreneurship skills. The structural changes wrought by the transition to green technologies or new energy sources modify the skills needed in labour markets.” What will be necessary, therefore, is the development of a consciousness to educate in this direction – addressing the skill-sets that will be in high demand – and producing a curricula and training with which to educate those coming in to the new market, within both the education system as well as on the job. Generating campaigns to target a new demographic to join this particular industry would be helpful too. (ILO)


In conclusion, it’s not all economic downturn and recession, this new industry promises a bright future for Canada and the world. Yes indeed, the future looks bright…Bright GREEN!

I think that this is a particularly bright future because not only does it mean a future of employment and economic success, but it also means a healthier less harmful future for us and those who come after us: these “investment decisions taken today are going to determine global greenhouse gas emissions for tomorrow and a good number of years to come” (ILO).

I will leave you with some words from Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, The Honourable Joe Oliver: Canada is committed to “creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. We are proud to play a role in developing [funds] which will drive new clean technologies that build our economy and protect the environment"

Amanda Labelle


Bak, Céline, Tom Richard Peltier, Cheryl McNamara, “Canadian clean technology is going for gold,”

Canadian Clean Technology Coalition, http://www.canadiantechnologycoalition.ca/home.php

“Global Jobs Pact Policy Briefs: Promoting Green Jobs for Recovery And Sustainable Development.” Brief
No 09, International Labour Organization (ILO), 2010. Print (pdf). 

Sustainable Development Technology Canada – Canada’s Economic Action Plan

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