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Canada’s Best Year for Clean Energy

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Clean Energy Canada has recently released their comprehensive paper evaluating how the clean energy sectors are performing in Canada, and they’re calling it a revolution, ‘Tracking the Energy Revolution – Global 2015’ to be precise. There’s no question that change is in full swing worldwide: investments, innovation and growth are all pointing towards the clean energy sector and away from fossil fuel sources.

Canada’s clean energy sector is on the rise in a big way, as investment in new clean-power generation rose 88% from 2013 (totalling appx. $10.7 billion). The report shows that the greatest investments were in wind, totalling $16.89 billion in 2014. Solar follows with investments of $6.14 billion. But don’t be mistaken, our country has a long way to go in terms of policy and support for this growing sector. While policies around clean energy have been strengthened and adapted at provincial and municipal levels, federally, there has been minimal action and support.

According to the report ranking by province, British Columbia lands at number 3 for clean energy leadership because of its commitment to clean energy and investment. BC scores lower on the policy front because of “an exemption in its clean electricity requirement that allows liquefied natural gas plants to produce electricity from fossil fuels”. The one noted policy out of BC was the legislation “intended to limit the amount of carbon pollution that the gas industry’s proposed LNG terminals may release”.provinceCleanPowerInvestment

Overall, the missing piece to keeping Canada’s growth in clean energy strong and globally competitive is federal support. Incentives and framework will pave the way for increased clean energy initiatives, and are a huge component of getting innovation to market.

You can download Clean Energy Canada’s full report from their website

English Bay Oil Spill – We Dodged Big Trouble… This Time!

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It has been 4 months since the Marathassa bunker oil spill in English Bay, and for some, the incident may feel like it’s in the rear view mirror. While we are very fortunate that the spill was small in comparison to others – particularly the recent 5 million litre Nexen bitumen emulsion leak in Alberta - for some BC businesses, the spill did have a small yet direct impact, and will not be easily forgotten.

CRED conducted research to find if there were measurable economic impacts to ocean-dependent industries from the Marathassa spill. Fortunately, our research team’s findings show that economic impacts were minimal. The reasons we avoided a more significant economic impact were the small amount of the leak itself, and because it happened just before many seasonal activities were to commence – such as commercial spot prawn fishing and summer recreational activities.

We are lucky that the time of year played a significant factor in minimizing the impact of the spill to ocean-dependent industries. Recreational fishing was affected the most, with industry representatives reporting an estimated $37,400 in lost profit, and approximately 240 hours of lost employment. While losses were minor, they impacted mainly small businesses that would have no path to compensate for their losses.

Our research shows that even such a relatively small spill as compared with others in recent history, has an effect on businesses, employment and profits, and it is these same businesses that would be hit hardest were a larger spill to occur.

And if the Oil Spill were Larger?

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A recent UBC study, conducted for the City of Vancouver, found that in the event of a 16 million litre oil spill (the equivalent of approximately one-fifth the quantity of an average oil tanker) in Burrard Inlet, economic losses could be over a billion dollars. The study determined that market recovery could have long-lasting impacts across many industries.The market recovery for local recreation could take up to 8 months, and ocean-dependent tourism could be impacted for up to 8 years. Are we prepared to assume the risks involved in exchange for the benefits of expanded bitumen traffic through our waters?

UBC study: a major spill in Burrard Inlet could cost the Vancouver economy $1.2 billion

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As the National Energy Board process gets further along for the Trans Mountain Expansion review, conversations are growing and research is building about the risks of the project. Since CRED first published the report ‘Assessing the risks of Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain Pipeline’ in 2013, more and more research has come to light about risks associated with this project. Reports around environmental, health, economic and reputational impacts have all shone a light on risks that weren’t immediately clear.

One of the latest reports comes from UBC Fisheries and Oceans and was led by CRED Advisor, Rashid Sumaila. The report ‘Potential economic impact of a tanker spill on ocean-dependent activities in Vancouver, British Columbia’ found that a major spill in Burrard Inlet could cost the Vancouver economy $1.2 billion. This estimate is alarming, and doesn’t include the cost of clean-up, response, or recovery. The report looked at the potential impact of an oil spill in Burrard Inlet on five key industries:

  1. Commercial fishing
  2. Port activities (shipping and cruises)
  3. Inner harbour transportation
  4. Tourism (on-water recreation, ocean-based and waterfront events, visiting beaches and seawall)
  5. Local use of the waterfront

Through the analyses of three potential spill scenarios: no spill, a spill in May and a spill in October, the study found that a 16,000 m3 oil spill in October would cost Vancouver’s economy just over $1 billion. If that same spill happened in May (when there is more ocean-dependent economic activity occuring) the economic cost goes up to over $1.2 billion.

The report concluded that an oil spill would result in closures of commercial fishing, floatplane activity and closure of the Vancouver port, and it could continue to impact ocean-dependent tourism for 8 years. Those are just some examples of the impact a spill would have on businesses and jobs dependent on a healthy marine environment. We’ve already seen that it doesn’t take much to close industries down. Crab and prawn fishing were shut down by the department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Musqueam Band in April after an oil spill leaked from a grain carrier in Burrard Inlet, and that was a minor spill in comparison to the potential scenario that this study is based on.

Kinder Morgan Canada’s spokesperson Ali Hounsell is quick to remind the public that “the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tankers have been safely operating in this community and through this harbour for the past 60 years”. Even if this is the case, will this hold true when the number of tankers have increased fourfold?

This UBC study focuses on impacts to ocean-dependent economic activities within the City of Vancouver; however, several other communities such as the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations peoples, who depend on the Burrard Inlet for food as well as social and ceremonial purposes would also be impacted. Those impacts need consideration, as do the other issues such as stranded assets, spills on land, and the impact on BC’s brand.

 

image courtesy of Jan Zescheky

Indirect impacts of the oil spill in English Bay

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While sitting at my computer in Gastown, I do a Google search for ‘Vancouver’ and the first result that comes up is a headline from CBC: ‘Feds’ oil spill response blasted by BC premier, Vancouver mayor’. There are four other links about the oil spill, nestled amongst links to Destination BC, Vancouver hotels, and other tourist sites, all of which are diminished by the oil spill headlines.

Reports say that about 2,800 litres were spilled into the waters of English Bay, but the amount is not necessarily the most important fact, nor is how much has been recovered. It’s the fact that regardless of quantity, this spill impacts the branding of Vancouver as a tourist destination, and could devalue every dollar invested in promoting BC as Super, Natural British Columbia. That’s important.

In addition to any direct effects, we need to be conscious of the indirect effects like the effects on perception. A study commissioned for the Louisiana Office of Tourism two months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, found that perception overshadowed actual impacts: a quarter of people thought that leisure activities (swamp tours, boating and hiking) were closed because of the spill, when in fact, this was not the case. This recent spill in Vancouver is nowhere near the catastrophe of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but it still makes headlines.

What do tourists hear about this spill? Will this impact their decision to visit later this summer? We can’t quantify the people who are contemplating a trip to BC, who then decide not to visit.

Moving commodities through the port of Vancouver brings both risks and benefits, but this spill is a reminder to question who benefits and who takes on the risks, and are those equal?

How Transit Impacts our Economy

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The transit plebiscite is launching in a week, and whether or not you think a plebiscite is useful, it’s brought up much needed conversations about what Greater Vancouver’s transit system looks like now and should look like in the future.

It’s a fact that our population is growing and our transit system needs to grow, but let’s look at the economic impact that investment in transit could have in Metro Vancouver.

Transit as a job creator

Transit gets people moving, but it also gets our local economy flowing. You don’t have to be a frequent user of public transit to benefit from a good transit system. The economic impacts of investing in transit creates benefits that take many different forms:

  • Direct ROI & Multiplier Effects: It is estimated that for every $1 invested in public transit, there are about $4 in economic returns. ($1.70 benefits from spending, and $2.00 impact from long-term cost savings)
  • More local spending: Shifting spending from automobile expenses to the other household purchases adds 3.6 Jobs for every $1 million shifted
  • Creates jobs: More direct and indirect jobs are created per dollar invested  in mass transit infrastructure than any other type of infrastructure spending including projects focused on energy, water, public facilities, or any other mode of transportation

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Savings from congestion costs

In addition to job creation, transit investment brings us cost savings through the alleviation of congestion, and as we’ve heard before, ‘time is money’.

Congestion is the culprit of slower traffic and increased freight expenses, and the cost of congestion is estimated at approximately $500 million per year by The Mayors’ Council. In addition to this, a recent study by the C.D. Howe Institute and Clean Energy Canada looked at other costs of congestion, the hidden costs such as lost face-to-face meetings from choosing not to travel because of gridlock traffic. Maybe you decided not to go out for dinner or to the hockey game because the traffic was way too busy. Or maybe you decided not to have that business meeting because there was no way to get there in time.

The C.D. Howe report estimates that these hidden costs are between $500 million and $1.2 billion per year for the Metro Vancouver area.  This is separate from the $500 million in visible losses calculated by the Mayors’ Council.  C.D. Howe reports that these hidden costs include workers not taking jobs that are best fit for them due to traffic congestion, a smaller pool of job candidates available to businesses, and lost opportunities for face-to-face learning.

If it’s a responsible and profitable economy that we’re moving towards, building a better transit infrastructure is an essential component of that vision.

 

 

 

 

The Future of BC’s Tech Sector

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DOWNLOAD “Is BC Poised to be the Next Tech Hot Spot?”

When tech grows, everyone benefits

Overall, the tech sector is responsible for $23-26 billion of BC’s GDP and more than 165,000 jobs. Growth in the sector benefits the rest of the economy more than growth in primary resource industries.

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The potential is huge, but more investments are needed

BC’s tech sector is growing at double the rate of the overall provincial economy; however, only 11% of Canada’s high tech jobs are in BC, compared to 41% in Ontario, and employment growth has been relatively flat since 2009. More strategic investments are needed to help BC achieve its potential.

Download our report to read more and see our key findings

Clean tech jobs in BC

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A new report has been released showing that Canadian jobs in clean tech now surpass those in the oil sands. According to the report from Clean Energy Canada 23,700 people work in green energy organizations compared to 22,340 who are directly employed in the oil sands.

So who is creating these jobs locally? We’ve gone behind the numbers to profile a few companies that are doing just that.

Clean Tech Companies in BC

Premier Lighting: a Burnaby based company that manufactures energy efficient commercial lighting fixtures, many of which are LEED compatible. It recently installed patented lighting in the Vancouver Public Library’s main branch parkade.The integrated system uses motion sensors to guide vehicles to vacant stalls, while the LED lights turn on only when the sensors detect vehicles or pedestrians.The lights are powered about 75% of the time, and BC Hydro estimated the project would reduce the library’s energy costs by about $31,000 a year.

Corvus Energy: this Richmond-based company designs and manufactures high power lithium ion energy storage systems for use in heavy industrial applications throughout the world. Corvus Energy was created in 2009 and named one of Canada’s companies to watch in the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards.

Solegear Bioplastics: founded in 2006 in Vancouver, this company produces and distributes high-performance plant-based plastics, such as bioplastic pellets, sheets, and finished goods for rigid packaging and durable products. Solegear received $1.6 million in funding from the federal government this past summer and has won awards from the Globe Foundation (Best emerging technology 2014) and City of Vancouver (leading business innovator).

Endurance Wind Power: based in Surrey, it manufactures and sells turbines for homeowners, businesses, and institutions around the world. It opened a new manufacturing plant in the West Midlands, one that is expected to become a centre for international exports and produce 100 farm turbines a year.

dPoint Technologies: this company began in 2005 and licensed the patents, designs and manufacturing equipment for low cost membrane humidifier technology from leading fuel cell manufacturer, Ballard Power Systems. Today, it carries out R&D, manufacturing and selling of membranes and heat and humidity exchangers for energy recovery in buildings, worldwide. DPoint has over 20 of the leading HVAC companies in North America, Europe, China and India including Honeywell, Daikin and Goodman as clients.  The top 3 residential energy recovery companies in Europe are using DPoint membranes.

Powertech Labs: a subsidiary of BC Hydro that specializes in clean energy consulting, independent testing and power system solutions. It operates the only hydrogen refuelling station in the lower mainland that is capable of filling 700 bar (which is considered a full tank). Powertech also tracks over 350 of BC’s 550 public electric charging stations.

What is needed to support this sector?

The Clean Energy Canada report estimates 24 billion has been invested in clean energy since 2009, with the majority of provincial investments going to solar and wind power in Ontario and Quebec, and hydro power in BC. There are also significant investments coming from private sector financiers abroad. However a common sentiment is that there needs to be more support from the federal government to push the clean tech sector into maturity.

Grant Brown, global marketing vice-president for Corvus, said clean-tech companies in BC have, by and large, created their own success with little help from governments, apart from the trade commissioners who facilitate introductions abroad.

Endurance Wind Power has focused its business in the UK due to high-energy prices and financial incentives to encourage Britons to generate their own power and sell any excess back to the grid. In an interview, Randeep Dosanjh, Endurance’s marketing specialist, said because B.C. doesn’t have such “feed-in” tariffs, or comparable energy prices, Endurance sees little local potential. The Clean Energy Canada report also prescribes more federal support of the industry, and Merran Smith, Director of Clean Energy Canada notes that currently subsidies and taxes are heavily entrenched in favour of oil and gas, and eat up a good deal of the country’s diplomatic relations efforts.

Changing regulation

Clean tech is clearly a strong job creator, with huge potential right here in BC, but is it enough to spark a change in national regulation? While there is some infrastructure, we are nowhere near Germany’s goals for renewable energy to make up 40 to 45% of the share in gross electricity consumption by 2025. Perhaps we could start with an energy policy, and make strides from there.

Kinder Morgan holds few benefits

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by Liz McDowell, December 16, 2014

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks up on Burnaby Mountain. In a high-stakes stand-off late last month, hundreds of protestors clashed daily with Kinder Morgan surveyors over the company’s right to test drill in a city park. The Burnaby RCMP arrested over 100 grandmothers, First Nations leaders, Clayoquot Sound veterans and other local residents for stepping over what turned out to be a fictitious line (somebody needs to check their darn GPS), and local politicians in Burnaby declared war on the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Now that Kinder Morgan surveyors have packed up their machinery and the hubbub has died down, it’s time to step back and look at the bigger picture. What, exactly, would this pipeline bring us that is worth all the controversy and conflict? As British Columbians, what are we really getting out of the project?

Earlier this month, a report from economists at the SFU Centre for Public Policy Research and the Goodman Group found that Kinder Morgan had over-estimated the number of jobs created by the project by threefold. This means that during the project’s construction, at most 4,000 short-term jobs would be created.

Compare this to the tens of thousands of jobs in tourism, retail and other marine-based sectors that would be impacted if there was a major oil spill in Burrard Inlet, and the project starts to feel like a real risk for our local economy. The same report also found that only 2 per cent of the project’s benefits would flow to BC, whereas tar sands operators would retain a whopping 68 per cent of revenues. The rest of the revenues would flow to Alberta and other provinces.

CRED’s own research has found that tax benefits would also be tiny. Burnaby, the municipality that stands to benefit the most, would be able to fund at most 1/12th of its parks and recreation budget from additional tax benefits. And that’s assuming no repeats of the 2007 spill on Inlet Drive, since a mishap like that could immediately wipe out all the municipal gains.

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Provincially, the amount of benefit Kinder Morgan claims this project would bring would fund, at most, two-thirds of the running costs of just one of BC’s 99 hospitals. Now, that’s hardly a nation-building project. You can bet that Kinder Morgan’s announcement in late November that the company has quietly sold all its assets to its American counterpart certainly won’t increase the benefits to British Columbians, either.

A recent report came out claiming that there are now more Canadian jobs in clean energy than in the oil sands. Our own research has found that there are more jobs in the brewing and beer economy than in the whole of the oil sands. So why it is assumed that finding export markets for oil is a national priority but building clean energy jobs and, more importantly (sorry solar panels but a nice microbrew beats you any day), beer jobs isn’t?

Maybe what we really need is a beer pipeline.

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Electrifying transportation in BC

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Vancouver hosted Canada’s national electric vehicle conference last week, which brought attention to the growing support of electric vehicles (EV’s) and plug-in hybrid vehicles in urban areas. So how big is this sector in BC, and do we have the infrastructure to support increased adoption of electric cars?

Huge growth in charging stations

The B.C. government announced in January it would spend $1.3 million to install 30 fast-charging electric stations in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Merritt, and Kamloops. In addition, Tesla installed a six-stall charging station in Squamish, making a longer trip between Whistler and Vancouver possible, and more stations are slated by the company for Revelstoke, Hope, Kamloops, Golden, and Banff. Meanwhile, existing public charging stations have seen a big increase in use over the last year. And this is all part of a bigger trend – the Fraser Basin Council and Powertech Labs reported that the number of vehicle charging sessions in the province has doubled between August 2013 and August 2014. (Over 350 of B.C.’s 550 public charging stations are tracked by Powertech Labs, a BC Hydro subsidiary.)

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