Alternative Energy: Building a Green and Prosperous Economy in Western Canada a Top Priority

Monday, July 11, 2005

Governments must work together to minimize pollution and greenhouse gases, assist industry and consumers to reduce energy consumption, and stimulate the emergence of a competitive alternative energy industry.

Canadians are looking ahead into a future where alternative fuel and power sources are common practice. I am proud that Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and the Government of Canada are taking steps to make this future a reality.

Governments must work together to minimize pollution and greenhouse gases, assist industry and consumers to reduce energy consumption, and stimulate the emergence of a competitive alternative energy industry.

The Government of Canada is working hard to maximize the opportunities these challenges present. In December of 2003, Prime Minister Paul Martin participated in the Western Canadian Environmental Technology Forum in Vancouver, which I hosted. He asked industry, community, and NGO leaders for concrete suggestions on how the federal government could work with them and other levels of government to advance Canada's leadership in the environmental technology sector.

An industry-led report on the Western Canadian Environmental Technology Sector was generated in response to the Prime Minister's challenge. It included recommendations that the government focus on demonstration projects, financing, and the development of regulatory regimes that foster development, commercialization and adoption of environmental technologies and processes.

WD is doing its part to embrace the challenge in Western Canada at each of four critical stages in the innovation cycle: R&D, demonstration projects, commercialization and market expansion.

The transformation to a carbon-neutral economy will not happen overnight. It requires focused investment in R&D and technologies that help set the stage for transition.

That's why WD is investing in industry initiatives such as the Calgary-based Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, in support of leaders in the oil and gas industry striving toward dramatic increases in extraction efficiency.

It's also why WD has invested in the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) in Regina, a leader in research into oil recovery and carbon sequestration, and Climate Change Central, a Calgary-based public-private partnership that develops solutions to global climate change issues.

Complementing these initiatives is a strong national focus on increasing the number of Canada Research Chairs, with the aim of spurring innovation in renewable technologies and carbon sequestration, and drawing expertise from around the world to Canada.

Demonstration projects are a critical next step toward commercialization and success. WD is working in partnership to develop and test emerging technologies across the West.

For example, we recently joined with the Government of Saskatchewan to invest in the country's first pilot-scale biodigester.This green power plant will turn biogas from waste feedstock into electricity and generate income for rural communities. Likewise, Canada Post is partnering with Azure Dynamics of Burnaby, B.C., with a plan to gradually switch a portion of its commercial fleet to hybrid vehicles, thereby opening an untapped global market niche for more efficient commercial vehicles.

Carmanah Technologies of Victoria, B.C., epitomizes the successful leap from demonstration to commercialization. With award-winning, solar-powered LED lighting technology for navigation and safety applications, Carmanah has grown annually at a rate of 68 per cent since 1998. Carmanah creates value for customers and shareholders by packaging its unique, advanced technologies into products that are in high demand across its targeted markets, with over 100,000 installed in 110 countries.

Rural and aboriginal communities also participate in our success. The Community Alternative Energy Development Initiative (CAEDI) is an example of how WD is expanding markets for alternative energy while creating jobs and fostering self-sufficiency in rural and aboriginal communities. CAEDI has invested in the early stages of 10 projects ranging from community energy planning, site selection, resource assessments and engineering studies to support the development of local renewable energy projects.

WD has partnered with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to enable the Hupacasath First Nation to construct a 6.5 megawatt run-of-the-river hydropower facility at China Creek in Port Alberni, B.C.This plant will ease the heavy burden on Vancouver Island's power grid and has already put the Hupacasath in a leadership position in Canada's renewable energy sector.

WD has also invested in the first Manitoba housing subdivision with piping for Ground Source Heat Pumps already installed.This complements Manitoba Hydro's aggressive geothermal heat initiative, which saw 650 new ground source heat pumps installed last year.

The Vancouver area is also leading Canada in technologies ranging from fuel cells, lower emission vehicles and wind power development, to solar receptor technologies, mine waste remediation and green building practices. Ballard, Westport, Azure Dynamics, Xantrex, Dynamotive, Novex, NORAM, Day 4 Energy, Sea Breeze Power, and Blue Energy are Canadian companies receiving international recognition for their accomplishments.

I believe that Canada is at the forefront of alternative and renewable energy technology development and application. WD is positioned to deliver on the government's commitment to reduce the effects of climate change and ensure clean air.

Stephen Owen is the Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State for Sport.