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Canada’s Clean Little Secret

Canada’s clean-technology sector — including water, wind, solar, smart grid technology, and more — offers numerous opportunities and advantages to relocating or expanding companies.

Sean Dyke, Economic Development Manager , City of St. Thomas, Ontario (Location Canada 2014)
You know the stereotypes about Canadians. We’re inherently modest and polite; we never toot our own horns; and we don’t fly our flag too high so as not to offend anyone.

Luckily, there are experts from other countries and well-known organizations to do that for us. KPMG says Canada is the most tax-competitive country for businesses on the planet. For the fifth consecutive year, the World Economic Forum rates Canada's banking system as the world’s soundest. According to The World Bank, Canada has one of the simplest business start-up processes with a single procedure that takes around five days. Canada is also a world leader when it comes to education, according to a new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I really want to tell you about Canada’s clean little secret (because we’re too forthright and inherently honest to have any other kind). If you are thinking of starting, relocating, or expanding an environmental, clean-energy, or clean-technology company, you need to consider Canada. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province - the one that borders New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota — has Canada’s greatest concentration of environmental and clean-technology companies. According to the 2014 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report, 35 percent of clean-tech companies in Canada are located in Ontario, with the clean technology sector serving industries including aerospace, automotive, smart grid and utilities, oil and gas, agriculture and more. The province also generates 37 percent of Canada’s GDP and is home to nearly 50 percent of all employees in high-tech and knowledge-intensive industries, including clean energy and clean tech.

But clean-tech hotspots can be found all over Canada. In British Columbia there are some 200 clean-tech firms, and many of them are focused on clean and renewable energy as well as clean transportation systems. Global leaders include fuel-cell developer Ballard Power Systems Inc., and alternative-vehicle fuel systems using natural gas and liquefied natural gas from Westport Power Inc.

In Alberta, clean tech follows the province’s leading economic sectors, energy and agriculture. Companies are developing expertise in fuels from biomass, water conservation, land management, and sustainable fertilizers.

In Quebec, the province’s clean technology agency, Écotech Québec, says there are some 500 clean-tech firms there. Hydroelectricity expertise is a strong suit in Quebec because of the province’s long history of large hydroelectric projects.

Three provinces in Canada’s Atlantic region — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador — have ready access to wind, solar, and tidal power, as well as oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic Ocean and, as a result, the region attracts a growing number of renewable energy firms. One company that has the world in its business plan is CarbonCure Technologies, which has devised a way to inject carbon dioxide waste into the production of green concrete. This carbon capture technique holds the potential to revolutionize the building industry.

Ontario's environmental sector is worth an estimated $8 billion in annual revenues and $1 billion in export earnings. Canada's national clean-technology industry revenue is $11.3 billion and projected to grow to $26 billion by 2018. With global markets for clean technology at $1 trillion and poised to triple this decade, Canada offers a world-leading, highly educated talent base with excellent growth opportunities, a low-risk business environment, and generous targeted tax credits to global companies seeking growth.

That all sounds almost immodest, doesn’t it? However, here are some examples to back up those almost un-Canadian boasts.

Water Technology
Let’s start with water, because Canada is North America’s freshwater champion, with almost 9 percent of our total area covered by water. The Great Lakes, our most important freshwater source that we share with our American cousins, are the largest system of fresh, surface water on earth, containing roughly 20 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.

With 10 percent more clean-technology companies than any other province in the country, and 900 water-industry-specific companies, the Ontario government’s Water Sector Strategy also includes targeted provisions for growing the water industry and maintaining its position as a global water innovation leader.

A municipal example of water industry synergy within the Ontario Clean Technology Alliance is the City of Burlington, located in the Halton Region on the shores of Lake Ontario. The city is home to the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, the Wastewater Technology Centre, and the birthplace of ZENON Environmental before its purchase by General Electric in 2006. Today, General Electric Water & Process Technologies occupies one-third of the center’s 5,500-square-meter (59,201-square-foot) space for ongoing R&D. Specialized facilities include research and operational laboratories, in-house pilot plant demonstration facilities for wastewater and biosolids processing and advanced treatment, mechanical workshop, and warehouse facilities, as well as an on-line sewage loop from an adjacent wastewater treatment plant.

Burlington is also home to 253 water-related businesses including Anaergia (global head office), Eco Waste Solutions (North American head office), and Endress+Hauser Canada Ltd. (Canadian head office).

Wind Technology
While the Niagara Region of Ontario is known worldwide for its magnificent waterfalls and associated hydro power, it also has a series of national and international wind investments by companies including Capital Power Corp., Enercon Canada Inc., Niagara Region Wind Corp. (NRWC), NextEra Energy Canada, Senvion SE (formerly REpower Systems SE), Samsung Renewable Energy Inc., and TSP Canada Towers Inc.

The wind power infrastructure investment leverages the province of Ontario’s visionary Green Energy Act of 2009 that helped ignite growth in the production of clean and renewable energy. Since 2009, Ontario’s Clean Energy Strategy is helping to build on the $27 billion in private-sector clean energy investments attracted to the province. Ontario’s clean-energy sector has already created 31,000 jobs, and more than 30 clean-energy companies have set up shop in the province.

Foreign companies — including Denmark’s Avanti Wind Systems, Helukabel USA, Inc., and Synergy Cables USA Ltd. — have recently set up shop in Ontario, attracted to its wind energy ecosystem. And wind turbine manufacturer PowerBlades Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of German-based Senvion SE (formerly REpower Systems SE), chose Welland, also in Ontario’s Niagara Region, as the site of a blade production factory that will serve the province’s wind project needs as well as supply the rest of the North American market.

And, in 2011, Korea-based Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) celebrated the grand opening of a state-of-the-art wind tower manufacturing facility in Trenton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, known as DSTN.

Solar Technology
Last year, Swiss-based ABB Ltd., the leading power and automation technology group, and its Ontario consortium partner Bondfield Construction, won an order from Canadian Solar Solutions to supply a 100-megawatt (MW) turnkey photovoltaic (PV) solar project for the Grand Renewable Energy Park in Ontario. The project is part of a $5 billion investment by Samsung Renewable Energy and partners to create a green energy cluster of wind and solar power, sources with the capacity to generate 1,369 MW of renewable energy.

Going back a few years to 2010, Enbridge Inc. and First Solar, Inc. achieved commercial operation of the 80 MW Sarnia, Ontario, Solar Project, one of the largest operating PV facilities in the world. It generates about 120,000 MWh per year of emissions-free power, enough to power about 12,800 homes.

The following year, Algatec Solar AG, Germany, announced a facility in Windsor-Essex, Ontario, and an investment of $10 million in the province. Algatec Solar Ontario manufactures photovoltaic (PV) modules. In Windsor-Essex, United Solar, a subsidiary of U.S. company Energy Conversion Devices Inc., announced an investment of US$12 million for a 7,000-square-meter Ontario facility to manufacture thin-film solar laminates. And a German company, KACO new energy Inc., opened KACO Canada in London, Ontario, to produce as much as 0.7 GW of inverters.

Smart Grid Technology
Ontario, as well as several other provinces, are inviting clean-energy technology companies from around the world to invest in research and development and advanced manufacturing to help improve electricity systems worldwide.

The new Cisco Chair in Smart Grid will focus research on the full integration of information science and technology concepts for the power grid in order to enhance its effective performance of key components such as storage and renewable resources. The new Chair is part of Cisco's ongoing sponsorship of research initiatives at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

The 200,000-square-foot, $40 million GE Grid IQ Global Innovation Centre in Markham, Ontario, is designed to foster innovation and global collaboration to improve the efficiency, reliability, and security of the world's electrical grids.

Federal Government Help
Canadian clean-technology companies in every province have some highly targeted help at the federal government level. As a key contributor to the dominant concentration of clean-technology companies across Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) helps energize the development and demonstration of a clean-technology ecosystem that can — and should — be taken advantage of by international clean-tech companies. With over $600 million allocated to more than 246 technology projects across Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada has successfully leveraged an additional $2.2 billion in funding from project partners including global clean-technology companies.

Sorry if you already knew about Canada's clean little secret, but we Canadians want to make sure the world knows about our success.

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