How the government’s new procurement program could cut emissions and grow clean tech jobs

One of the commitments stated in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was to “modernize procurement practices, adopt clean energy and technologies, and prioritize opportunities to help Canadian businesses grow, demonstrate new technologies and create jobs.” In Budget 2017, the government announced measures to support technological innovation;  the section entitled ” A Nation of Innovators”  includes the allocation  of $50 million to launch Innovative Solutions Canada , a procurement program modelled on the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program .  On April 7, Clean Energy Canada stepped up on this issue with a policy primer to suggest best practices from around the world:   The Power of Procurement: How the government can drive growth, cut carbon and create jobs

The Power of Procurement cites a 2016 OECD report which states that in Canada, the procurement of goods and services by the federal government alone accounts for approximately 13% of Canada’s GDP.  With Canada`s current Green Procurement Policy  established in 2006, and with our clean tech export market share declining, Canada has a lot of catching up to do.  The Clean Energy Canada report offers five Best Practices for consideration as the federal government  fleshes out its new Innovative Solutions Canada program .   Included in the Best Practices: a focus on low-carbon as a  clearly defined parameter in decisions; lifecycle costing which includes the purchase price, installation cost, operating costs, maintenance and upgrade costs, and residual value; target-setting for specific outcomes;  and support for commercialization and exporting capability for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), which dominate Canada’s cleantech sector.

 

 

Alberta reinvesting carbon levy revenues in clean energy programs

cropped-worksolar.jpgAlberta announced  a new Residential and Commercial Solar rebate program  on February 27, funded with $36 million from revenues from the province’s carbon levy. The government estimates that the program will stimulate up to 900 jobs in the solar sector, while reducing GHG emissions and cutting installation costs for residences by 30 per cent and  for businesses and non-profits by 25 per cent.  In combination with a December 2016  change to the  Micro-generation Regulation ,  which increased the allowable capacity of  micro-generation systems to five megawatts, the rebate program  is meant especially to encourage solar commercial  and community operations .  The Pembina Institute reaction    highlights the aspect of microgeneration and distributed energy; DeSmog Blog   gives more details and context about the overall growth of solar in Alberta. Iron and Earth , the workers’ organization promoting the transition from oil and gas to renewables, calls the announcement a “great first step” on their Facebook page   , and notes their previous call to the Alberta government for increased access to solar skills training programs.

smart-thermostatOn  Febrary 28,  the government issued an invitation for Albertans to register for a Residential No-Charge Energy Savings Program   ,  encouraging all households, regardless of income, to upgrade to more energy-efficient products, including LED lights, high efficiency shower heads, and smart thermostats. Installation and product costs will be borne by the province and financed, again, through carbon levy revenues.

Finally, on March 3, Alberta announced matched funding of $10 million from the province and the federal government for a Calgary-based Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) .  The facility will “test breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 from harmful emissions into applications for everyday use.”  It will be owned and operated by InnoTech Alberta   , a subsidiary of Alberta Innovates; the goal is to support “Alberta-based technology developers, as well as attracting global companies and world-class researchers to the province”.  The Pembina Institute calls it “a plug and play technology sandbox”  and “an excellent way to create partnerships and accelerate our learning with respect to new technologies, in order to develop emissions solutions and create economic opportunities.” The Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance also approves.  The investment follows a February 13 meeting to expand and renew the Alberta – Canada Collaboratory on Clean Energy Research and Technology Memorandum of Understanding.

Recent Research into Climate Policy questions

The Trottier Energy Futures Project released a report, authored by the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the David Suzuki Foundation, in June 2016.  Canada’s Challenge & Opportunity: Transformations for Major Reductions in GHG emissions  uses systems analysis to discuss 11 separate scenarios with the goal of achieving the 80-per-cent GHG reduction by 2050. The paper  casts doubt on the “timely availability of technology and associated infrastructure”, but considers the technical and economic barriers less important as the political and social/cultural – success will demand major change to a low-economy lifestyle.  It concludes…”the project demonstrates that substantial progress can be made by 2030 using currently available systems to reduce GHG emissions. Key areas include significantly increasing the supply of electricity and biomass/biofuels in order to displace fossil fuels in all five end-use sectors, decarbonizing electricity production by switching to non-emitting sources, enabling transfers of electricity between provinces and territories, and implementing a comprehensive program of energy conservation and efficiency measures. In addition, as several provinces and the federal government have already committed to implementing carbon pricing, a national climate strategy, along with regulations and incentives that support innovative GHG-reduction technologies and initiatives, may be within reach.”    A detailed summary and analysis of the Trottier report from Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (University of Calgary)  is here .

Top Asks for Climate Action: Ramping up Low carbon communities  was released by the Columbia Institute in B.C. in June,  and makes the case for local climate leadership.  It itemizes what local governments need from  federal, provincial and territorial governments to realize climate action, clustered in the themes of capacity building; smart growth; harnessing local energy; reducing carbon pollution from the building sector, and from the transportation sector. The policy actions highlighted in the report are the result of an extensive literature review and survey of more than 100 locally elected officials.

Sustainable Prosperity has released a series of blogs and papers arguing that environmental regulation, if well-designed and flexible, can stimulate clean innovation and boost corporate competitiveness. (The Porter Hypothesis).  Green Tape Measures Up   is an Issue Summary released in June 2016; the related Policy Brief Environmental Regulation and Innovation: Select case studies of the Porter Hypothesis (November 2015) reviews seven recent case studies from four industrial sectors in the EU and U.S.  to support the argument.

Canadian Forestry Industry Rebrands Itself as Innovative and Green

Canada’s forestry companies, through their organization the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), recently released two “report cards” to measure their progress towards their Vision 2020 goals for productivity, environmental performance, and people . Regarding people, their Pathways to Prosperity report states: “the sector recruited 8,000 workers in the period 2010 to 2012, mainly to replace retiring baby-boomers.” The environmental performance measures get far more attention: “

In 2010-2012, the reduction in waste to landfill was 31%, …. with 98% of wood residue now being used for either energy generation or composting. More than 66% of mills’ waste water sediment is being used for either energy generation, composting or land application. The recycling rate also improved by another 4%. Canada has one of the highest recovery rates of waste paper and packaging in the world at 73% … Energy use decreased by 8%. For example, the sector continued to invest in energy reduction projects including the installation of energy-efficient equipment to improve mills’ competitiveness and increase the production of green energy. This has also served to improve the quality of air emissions with a reduction in particulate matter (PM) (11%), sulphur oxide (SOx) (6%) and nitrous oxide (NOx) (11%)” .

The Productivity Scorecard report is based on a detailed analysis by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS). That study documents the trends in the labour force and in labour productivity, and concludes that the driving force behind rapid labour productivity growth in the forest products industry is multifactor productivity growth, made possible by investment in change and innovation. The report describes the two major initiatives: Future Bio-pathways Project (begun in 2010), and Construction Value Pathways (begun in 2013). The report recommends renewed focus on human and physical capital investment, as well as on R&D spending.

To rebrand the industry and attract a new generation of workers to the sector, FPAC launched The Greenest Workforce.ca website. The website states: “The industry’s traditional products like pulp, paper and lumber are fundamental to the success of new products like renewable bio-fuels, green bio-plastics, bio-pharmaceuticals, bulletproof vests, car parts and airplane wings which are part of the dynamic new face of the Canadian forest products industry.” Using videos and Twitter, the site includes job postings, job profiles, descriptions of the industry and career prospects.
Unifor, which represents more than 21,000 forestry workers, and just completed bargaining for a pattern agreement with Resolute Forest Products, agrees that the industry is in transition. In a President’s Statement of June 8, Jerry Diaz calls for the reinstatement of a Forestry Industry Council with “a specific mandate to investigate and make public recommendations for a strengthened high-value forestry industry.”

LINKS:

Vision2020 Pathways to Prosperity (June 17) is at http://www.fpac.ca/index.php/en/page/vision2020
Productivity Report Card summary (May 2014) is at http://www.fpac.ca/publications/14-FPAC-0349-ProductivityReportDesign2014-EN-Rev5.pdf with the detailed analysis prepared by the Centre for the Study of Living standards (CSLS) at http://www.csls.ca/reports/csls2014-01.pdf .
Greenest Workforce.ca is at http://www.thegreenestworkforce.ca/index.php/en/
Unifor Statement is at http://www.unifor.org/en/blog/new-resolute-collective-agreements-covering-2000-workers

Eco-Industries Can Thrive with Supportive Government Policies and a Culture of Innovation

A new report from EU think-tank the Ecologic Institute, prepared for the Greens in the European Parliament, asserts that eco-industries outperformed the broader economy during difficult times, including the 2008 financial crisis. The report examines five European countries since 2008, and compares them to the U.S., China, and Mexico. It states that, while European manufacturers in general fell behind on the global market, manufacturers of environmental goods and services managed to remain competitive. In addition, even when European eco-manufacturing lost out to global competitors like China’s growing solar PV manufacturing sector, European jobs were retained in planning, installation, and maintenance. The resilience of the European eco-industries is attributed partly to rapid innovation, as measured by patent applications. Ecologic also noted that government policy that preserved investor confidence was crucial to maintaining resilient eco-industries.

LINKS

How Crisis-resistant and Competitive are Europe’s Eco-Industries? Is available at: http://www.ecologic.eu/10477