February 13, 2005  -  

VANCOUVER (CP) – As the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions comes into effect this week, Canadian alternative energy companies are seeing green of a different kind.

Companies with “clean” or low-emission technologies are poised to exploit the market as countries look to meet their commitments under the agreement.

“It’s going to help us encourage people to look at alternatives, it’s going to help us be more energy efficient,” David Demers, a founder and chief executive of Westport Innovations, said in an interview.

The Kyoto treaty comes into legal effect on Feb. 16. Canada’s target is a six per cent cut in greenhouse emissions, from 1990 levels, by 2012.

Demers said concerns about local air pollution, energy efficiency and security have driven sales in the past and Kyoto will only add to the appeal of his company’s technology, which allows engines to operate on clean-burning fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen and hydrogen-enriched natural gas.

“Kyoto is only going to happen if we can continue to have our economy driven the way we want,” he said.

“Nobody wants to shut down economic development or power generation or transportation. We want to keep doing everything we do, but if we want to keep doing it we have to do it more efficiently.”

In late January, Westport’s joint venture with Cummins Inc. – Cummins Westport – received its single largest order – 450 engines – from Beijing Public Transport Holdings Ltd., an order that will eventually see BPT operating more than 2,600 natural gas buses powered by CWI engines.

“We’re delivering today stuff that makes economic sense, the transit fleets are buying this because it makes economic sense, it delivers an environmental benefit, but its the way the way they hit their environmental targets,” Demers said.

Art Aylesworth, CEO of Carmanah Technologies Inc., a company developing the use of solar power to power lighting systems, said there is a growing buzz in his industry because of Kyoto.

The company started out making marine lighting systems where solar power was the only way, but has expanded to bus shelters and airport runways.

“What’s happening – which is a very pivotal change and I think timely – is that we’re broadening our visibility throughout the solar space globally,” Aylesworth said.

“The more we do that, the more relevance we’re going to have to the ongoing buzz created by the demands to keep up with the Kyoto promises.”

Meanwhile, alternative energy heavyweight Ballard Power Systems is looking to have 120 fuel-cell powered vehicles, including 39 buses, on the road within two years as the company expands road testing of its technology.

“Kyoto is certainly a driver for the overall auto industry to look at different types of technologies to improve their profiles,” said Michael Rosenberg, Ballard’s treasurer.

Rosenberg said Japan is one of the most aggressive markets looking at using fuel cells in cars, with a goal of having 50,000 vehicles on the road by 2010 and five million by 2020.

“They’re doing that because they want to reduce emissions and reduce their dependence on foreign sources of oil,” he said.

Rosenberg said fuel-cell vehicles are about 10 years behind hybrids such as the popular Toyota Prius in terms of market development.

About 88,000 hybrids were sold in the United States last year, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which projects the number to more than double to about 220,000 this year.

But Rosenberg was confident fuel cells would catch up with the hybrids.

“They’re still just a bridge to the ultimate fuel cell future… hybrids will always have emissions, because they are burning fuel in an internal combustion engine,” he said.