Backed by a combination of smart government policies and the same entrepreneurial spirit that earned the province a global reputation for innovation in oil and gas production, Alberta is emerging as a hub for the development of green technology and climate leadership.

According to Calgary Economic Development, more than 500 companies in Calgary alone are active in the green energy economy, and energy efficiency has become a watchword throughout the province.

Megan Zimmerman, Calgary Economic Development’s business development manager, Energy, Technology & Green Economy, says Alberta has all the ingredients to be a climate leader globally without undermining the economic opportunities of energy or ignoring the environment.

“We have the people, the capital, the natural resources – oil, gas, solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy – and a progressive government to make it happen. Global climate leadership is Alberta’s opportunity to lose,” she says.

Much of the momentum for cleantech development was created in 2015 when the provincial government released its Climate Leadership Plan aimed at encouraging new technologies, promoting energy efficiency and setting clear emission reduction targets for large emitters.

Also in 2015, a study by the Delphi Group of the Calgary region’s green energy economy concluded that the city was on the path to becoming a premier green energy hub in North America.

There has been significant progress since then, says Ms. Zimmerman.

“The provincial government committed to reduce reliance on coal to generate power and increase generation of energy from renewable sources to 30 per cent by 2030, and we are certainly well down that path,” she adds. In 2017, the Government of Alberta purchased the cheapest renewable energy in Canada at 3.7 cents/kWh.

Energy Efficiency Alberta, a provincial government agency dedicated to helping the province save energy, says Albertans saved $300-million in energy costs, received $45-million in instant savings and rebates to purchase over 13 million energy-efficient products, and avoided three and a half million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as part of energy efficiency programs in 2017-18.

Ms. Zimmerman says another indicator of the province’s climate leadership is the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC), which was established in Calgary to test and advance carbon capture and conversion technologies that accelerate greenhouse gas emission reductions by enabling the commercially viable conversion of carbon into value-added products.

“The ACCTC positions Calgary as ground zero for the development, piloting, implementation and commercialization of technologies that are going to help us advance our energy sector, both fossil fuels and renewables, to be the best in the world,” she says.

Calgary-based cleantech Carbon Upcycling Technologies (CUT) is at the forefront of carbon conversion. CUT’s proprietary process combines waste CO2 gas with solid feedstock to produce stable nanoparticles that can be used to strengthen materials like plastic and concrete.

CEO Apoorv Sinha says Calgary is an ideal location for a cleantech company like CUT. “Calgary provides a unique nexus of entrepreneurial culture, corporate access, and technical expertise, which makes its exceptionally well suited for hardware-intensive industries like clean technology,” he says.

“People might not realize this, but Calgary and Alberta as a whole have taken more steps than any other North American jurisdiction outside of California in a real effort towards promoting the validation of clean
technology sectors.”

David Vonesch, COO of Calgary based SkyFire Energy Inc., Western Canada’s leading solar contractor, agrees that Calgary is an ideal location for a cleantech company.

“Calgary is a young city with a high percentage of young professionals. The oil and gas industry has successfully established a base of extremely talented and passionate individuals who understand energy and understand the need to reduce carbon emissions,” he says.

With companies like CUT and SkyFire contributing to the growth of Calgary’s green energy hub, Ms. Zimmerman believes the city’s – and the province’s – vision of emerging as a global climate leader is attainable.

“We have everything any jurisdiction in the world would be envious of, so if Alberta can’t be a leader in climate leadership, I don’t know who can,” she says.

This article first appeared in the Globe & Mail Climate Leadership edition on Nov.2, 2018. 

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