by Bruce Mason
While still under the radar of our senior governments and corporate media, the world is awash in cleantech. From San Francisco to Singapore to Surrey, cleantech expos and forums have sprung up, offering snapshots of an evolving global tapestry of innovation. At one time, an Internet search for cleantech would turn up local janitorial and carpet cleaning services. Now, one is rewarded with numerous webinars on biofuels and chemicals, new power generation and ways to improve efficiency and bottom lines while shrinking carbon footprints. Good news.
The first-ever Greater Vancouver Clean Technology Expo late last month included a mini-refinery that produces high quality biodiesel from renewable feedstock sources, roofs made out of waste limestone and recycled plastic that sell for a fraction of the cost of natural slate and cedar, a wireless crop-health monitoring system and electricity from the natural flow of rivers – with no dams, diversions or harm to ecosystems and recreational areas.
Forty companies from across the region gathered at the new Surrey City Hall Atrium to demonstrate technology, take part in workshops and share information with fellow innovators, future investors and curious folks who see the folly in continuing to extract and sell finite resources.
Recently elected Mayor Linda Hepner reports, “Surrey is Canada’s fastest growing city and home to 10% of BC’s Clean Technologies and we are committed to supporting and creating a vibrant innovation ecosystem across the Greater Vancouver region.”
Surrey is also home to a number of innovative enterprises, including the Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre, designed to help clean technology companies grow; Powertech Labs, which employs the highest number of PhD-level scientists in BC outside of the post-secondary system and companies such as Endurance Wind Power, a homegrown wind turbine engineering firm. From a one-room office and six employees in 2007, it now houses 155 people in a 45,000 square-foot state of the art facility and has a fleet of turbines, which can be found in more than 750 locations worldwide, including the US, UK, Italy and Canada’s Maritimes.
Clean technology, or “cleantech” – still synonymous with “greentech” in many minds – is new technology. Related business models provide solutions to global climate or resource challenges – or the much ballyhooed desire for energy independence – while offering competitive returns for customers and investors. Canada’s economic growth potential through clean energy is huge, but it requires the same priority status that government extends to other industries.
The day before the Expo in Surrey, the BC Sustainable Energy Association staged a webinar entitled “Tracking the Clean Energy Revolution – Boutique Goes Big.” It reviewed reports from late 2014 about the global shift to renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and water. Investment since 2009 – roughly the same as agriculture, fishing and forestry combined – in the energy generating capacity of wind, solar, run-of-river hydro and biomass plants has expanded by 93% and employment, approximately 40%.
In Japan, former Fukushima employees are flocking to solar power. And below our border, that sector grew 20 times faster than the national US employment rate. Worldwide, 6.5 million people are employed in the booming clean-energy sector.
Once categorized as the proverbial “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” Canadians can no longer just be considered “drillers of oil and frackers of gas.” People who work in green energy now outnumber those whose work relates to the tar sands.
In 2011, clean energy supply and storage, clean transportation, green building and energy efficiency was responsible for more than 123,000 jobs in BC, equal to those created in tourism and six times the number of jobs in oil, mining and gas. That number is growing rapidly.
Cleantech may not be the answer to all our problems, but it’s a sector that offers huge promise for the growth and health of our economy and environment.
There is no BC information clearinghouse, but in upcoming issues, Common Ground will feature some of the advances being made in our region, along with the exciting events, people and stories that make cleantech a clear winner.
1 thought on “BC’s cleantech industries cleaning up in more ways than one”
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