Clean-Tech Sector Valuable to Region

While many visitors to our part of the world will leave with images of breathtaking scenery, gorgeous gardens, taste-tempting farmer’s markets and great restaurants, the Saanich Peninsula is also home to a large number of thriving industries, manufacturers and innovators.  Quite a number fall in the category of “clean-tech.”

The clean-tech sector is one identified globally as having enormous potential.  By 2020, it is estimated that the sector will be worth $3 trillion to the world economy.

Certainly, investments in the U.S. have been outpacing Canada. U.S. President Barack Obama’s new tone of resolve in addressing the climate crisis suggests that their previous level of support will be ramping up.  President Obama highlighted the potential of clean-tech to stimulate the economy and create jobs in his inauguration address:

We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries; we must claim its promise.

At the moment, Canada has only one percent of the sector’s current $1 trillion global value.  Still, that relatively small piece of the pie is responsible for 52,600 Canadian jobs in 700 clean-tech companies.  The sector was worth over $10 billion last year, and that was a jump of 18% over the previous year.

In Parliament, I work with a new all-party clean-tech caucus, chaired by Conservative MP Jay Aspin.  We have engaged MPs across party lines in the exciting potential for innovation in clean-tech.  The sector is making gains in improving the energy efficiency of the mining sector, reducing waste water in the oil sands, cutting deeply into the price differential between renewable and coal to the point that some new wind and solar out-performs coal in terms of price.

A recent report by the Pembina Institute, (Competing in Clean energy: How Canada can capitalize on the global transition to clean energy, January 22, 2013), based on a forensic review of the sector and extensive interviews, concluded that Canada could expand our clean-tech sector to $60 billion by 2020. That realistic assessment needs to be underscored.  We have the potential for six-fold growth over the next seven years.

Vancouver Island Technology Park has been an incubator for new clean-tech firms.  There are companies working in bio-fuels, wind energy and tidal power.  As well, outside of the Vancouver Island Technology Park, the Saanich Peninsula has a number of firms working in the clean-tech sector. Everything from Triton Logging, accessing sustainable hardwood from tropical hydro-electric sites, to Aeolis Wind, and a number of environmental consulting companies, including over 300 people working at Stantec. Our area benefits from jobs in clean-tech.

To reach its full potential, we need provincial and federal policies to align.  It is excellent to know we can produce power from tidal action, but it would certainly help the start-up companies if they could access a “feed-in” tariff and sell into the grid.  The federal government needs to continue its support of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).  Founded in 2001, SDTC has successfully completed 19 rounds of funding approvals.  Over $500 million has been allocated to 228 projects.   That level of investment has resulted in a highly successful track record in leveraging funds from other project partners.  The ratio is 2.4:1, with $1.4 billion leveraged from $560 million.

Amazingly, of a 14 person national board two of the board members are prominent local residents. The Chair of the Board is Juergen Puetter of Aeolis Wind. And former Saanich-Gulf Islands Member of Parliament, Gary Lunn, was recently appointed to the SDTC board. I sincerely hope they will succeed in gaining replenishment of funding for clean-tech in this spring’s budget.  It has tremendous potential for the planet, for Canada and for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Elizabeth May is the Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Originally printed in the Victoria News.