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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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