Canadian clean tech funding renewed

Federal budget supports continued development, demonstration
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
By Barbara Carss

The green building sector is one of the beneficiaries of the recent federal budget pledge to renew Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) funding for the late-stage development and pre-commercial demonstration of technologies that support clean air, water or land and/or address climate change.

The initial $590 million SD Tech Fund, established in 2001, helped to underwrite 245 projects, amounting to an estimated $2 billion total investment when combined with the contributions of other partners in the private sector and research institutions.

The promised new influx of $385 million in federal funding will extend the program for another eight years. A call for applications for the next round of projects closed in mid-April. Priority areas are broadly cast under the five categories of: natural resources; clean energy; agriculture; northern and remote communities; and packaged solutions and integrated clean technologies. Technologies that improve the energy efficiency of the built environment are, in turn, identified as a target area under clean energy initiatives.

“Overall, the budget was pretty slim on details for any stakeholder group, let alone the environment. That SDTC funding was extended shows the federal government recognizes the clean tech sector is one of the fastest growing, high-potential industries in the country,” says Alex Gill, executive director of the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA). “The federal government is putting in place multi-year funding, equating to about $40 million per year, and very rarely do you see governments making multi-year commitments anymore.”

In 2012, SDTC pegged its portfolio value in the construction industries at approximately $12 million – considerably less than in the agriculture/forestry, mining, oil and gas, manufacturing or utilities sectors where portfolio value ranges from $245 million to $450 million. Although this reflects the green building sector’s lesser role in the overall economy, it’s also attributable to the relatively lower capital costs of building-scale technology versus some of the other applications.

Beyond the approximate $2 billion that project partners have invested over the past 11 years, SDTC calculates the private sector has followed with another $2.3 billion to advance maturing technologies past this stage. Ultimately, it’s projected that Canada’s clean technology sector could generate $62 billion and employ 126,000 people by 2020.

“Some of the things we’ve been working on and that were launched at the beginning of the program are already starting to make it to market, and we expect there will be a continuation of that process,” reports Kim Dotto, dean of applied research at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), which has been a partner in several SDTC projects. “There are many steps between a lab-tested, lab-proven project and taking it to the market. SDTC is funding that gap stage in getting the technology ready to install in a building.”

BCIT’s ‘living lab’ approach of incorporating new technology into its own campus facilities has provided the field test for projects such as a solar canopy for delivering natural light into interior spaces, which received SDTC funding in round 13 of allocations in 2009.

“This fits right in with what we do at BCIT because much of what we do is development and demonstration,” adds Dotto.

The most recent round of funding, announced in February 2013, provides nearly $62 million for 23 projects, only one of which is directly related to an application for commercial and residential buildings. However, BCIT is a partner in a demonstration project that could potentially benefit all consumers connected to the electricity grid. The smart controller for electrical substations is envisioned as a load management tool that could increase the capacity of a substation by up to 30 per cent.

Similarly, Toronto Hydro’s recently launched pilot community energy storage project, which uses lithium-polymer NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) battery technology, received SDTC funding in round 17 in February 2011. The utility, in partnership with the technology developer eCAMION Inc., is assessing the storage unit’s effectiveness as a power supply in peak demand periods and/or when emergency backup is required.

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