By: Dan Woynillowicz and Merran Smith
The U.S. president is moving to roll back climate-change related regulations, but clean tech is an international growth area for ambitious Canadian firms
“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables.”
Those were the words of Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency—an institution often noted for its conservative tendencies when it comes to renewable energy.
The global clean energy transition has taken hold. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow into new clean energy projects every year, pushing renewables toward increasing dominance over fossil fuels in various markets.
Since 2012, the world has brought more renewable than fossil power online each year—and that trend continued in 2016. Overall, the amount of new renewable power capacity installed in 2016 came in just shy of the record set in 2015, with 150 GW installed. To put that in context, last year alone the world added more clean power capacity than we have in all of Canada today, from all sources.
This momentum now appears irreversible, as a confluence of economic, environmental, social and political forces drive the transformation of our electricity systems. That remains true even as U.S. President Donald Trump takes aim at Obama-era climate policies.
Canada is ahead of the curve, with a grid already drawing on significant amounts of renewable power thanks to a legacy of hydropower and recent growth from other sources, most notably wind and solar. The challenge is determining Canada’s niche to capitalize on the immense economic opportunity this transformation is creating in countries around the world.
Without question, Canada should and will continue to deploy renewable energy to meet the federal targets of phasing out coal-fired power and achieving 90% non-emitting power by 2030. Ultimately, renewable energy will prove critical in efforts to fully decarbonize the country’s power grids and the broader energy system. It is in overcoming this challenge that Canada has the opportunity to be among the global leaders, using new technologies and systems to replace the fuels used to heat buildings, provide energy to industries and power transportation.
Canada is home to numerous clean energy technology and service companies, which are cutting their teeth at home but must ultimately look abroad if they are to continue to grow. The 2016 Global Cleantech 100 List, compiled by the San Francisco-based Cleantech Group, identifies the companies best positioned to solve tomorrow’s clean technology challenges, spotlighting those with the most potential to make a significant market impact in the next five to 10 years. Canada delivered an impressive 11 companies to the list, and five of those were in the clean energy field.
In addition to Canadian resourcefulness, this country is home to many of the resources that are in growing demand to build the solar panels, wind turbines and advanced batteries that are powering the clean energy transition. Canada is already a significant producer of key minerals and metals that go into producing clean energy technologies—including cobalt, copper, nickel, graphite and cadmium—and we also have a rich and untapped endowment of rare earth elements and lithium. With rigorous environmental assessment and oversight, direct indigenous engagement, and innovation in mining technologies and practices, Canada can emerge as a world-leading, responsible supplier of the minerals and metals that enable clean energy.
While some might lament the outlook for our traditional energy sector, there is no shortage of opportunity for Canada in the clean energy transition—in new technologies and services as well as resource extraction. But to capitalize on this opportunity, there will need to be a concerted effort, by government and businesses alike.
In an era in which trade with our closest neighbour may become more challenging, new markets—from Europe to India to China—offer great prospects. It’s clear these markets are seeking clean energy solutions. And Canada is well-positioned to deliver.
Indigenous communities in Canada are at the forefront of the transition to a clean energy economy, representing an investment of more than $30 billion in the past five years alone, and leaders in the Indigenous Clean Energy sector have two more reasons to celebrate this week: on Wednesday the federal budget included commitments of $715 million over 11 years for Indigenous participation in renewable energy projects including the move away from diesel fuels, and today a new network was launched to accelerate their work.
“The drive in Indigenous communities to be leaders in clean energy is a game-changer,” says Chris Henderson, President of Lumos Energy. “The $715 million of new federal spending will open many doors for Indigenous communities to develop hydro, solar, wind, biomass and other clean energy projects, and help off-grid communities reduce their reliance on diesel power. This not only gives First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities access to cleaner and more reliable energy — it can also be a major driver for community economic development.”
Chief Gordon Planes of T’Sou-ke First Nation in British Columbia has seen the benefits firsthand. “Already, there are more than 165 medium-to-large scale clean energy projects that Indigenous communities have been leaders in. And there are hundreds of small community-based projects, like the solar projects we have in T’Sou-ke,” he explains.
“These projects represent billions of dollars in investment and have created thousands of jobs for Indigenous peoples. On our project alone we had 12 people trained and employed, and we’re a community of just 250 people. That’s a huge impact.“
Lumos Energy is behind an initiative to extend the impact even further.
“Today we are launching the Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) Network to provide an information hub for the sector and support collaboration to capitalize on the opportunities in this space,” Henderson announced today at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Energy Forum in Ottawa. He added, “The ICE Network has become a reality thanks to strong Indigenous and clean energy industry partners.”
“The opportunities for indigenous communities are multi-faceted. Recent projects are breaking new ground in terms of the level of indigenous ownership, control, access to jobs, revenue-sharing and community economic spin-offs,” he remarked.
The ICE Network will connect Indigenous community members, Chiefs and Councillors, government representatives, energy sector industries and investors, academics, and others involved in advancing clean energy initiatives, such as off-grid diesel reduction.
By: Anmar Frangoul
Engineers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have developed an innovative way of using the sun to power a “synthetic skin” used on prosthetic limbs.
In a news release on Wednesday, the university said that the research could help to produce advanced prosthetic limbs “capable of returning the sense of touch to amputees.”
The team at Glasgow had previously developed an “electronic skin” made from graphene to cover prosthetic hands, the university added. They had now developed a method which uses graphene’s physical properties to harness the sun’s energy and power the skin.
The university described graphene as a highly flexible form of graphite that is only a single atom thick but stronger than steel. In addition, it is both transparent and electrically conductive.
This “optical transparency” makes it capable of gathering energy from the sun in order to produce power.
Ravinder Dahiya, together with colleagues from his Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group, had now added power generating photovoltaic cells to their electronic skin. Photovoltaic cells directly convert the light of the sun into electricity.
“Human skin is an incredibly complex system capable of detecting pressure, temperature and texture through an array of neural sensors which carry signals from the skin to the brain,” Dahiya, from the university’s School of Engineering, said.
“My colleagues and I have already made significant steps in creating prosthetic prototypes which integrate synthetic skin and are capable of making very sensitive pressure measurements,” Dahiya added.
“Those measurements mean the prosthetic hand is capable of performing challenging tasks like properly gripping soft materials, which other prosthetics can struggle with.”
Glasgow said that the new skin needs only 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter, an amount “easily met even by the poorest-quality photovoltaic cells currently available on the market.”
“The other next step for us is to further develop the power-generation technology which underpins this research and use it to power the motors which drive the prosthetic hand itself,” Dahiya said. “This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
By Lydia Neufeld
The city of Edmonton is looking to tweak a bylaw to make it easier for homeowners to install solar panels on their houses.
The proposed changes include removing the requirement of a development permit for roof-mounted solar panels in residential neighbourhoods.
“It means less paperwork, less red tape,” said Anne Stevenson, senior planner with the city.
It also includes setting out guidelines on restricting their height and how far the panels can protrude from the side of a house.
“Right now there’s a lot of ambiguity around solar panels,” said Stevenson. “What these amendments do is make it very clear that if you follow certain parameters you won’t require a development permit.”
The change is essential, said Rob Harlan, executive director of the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.
“They’ve got an existing permit process that is somewhat of a disincentive for people because it’s not always consistent, and it’s not always clear,” Harlan said Friday.
“I would call it essential. There really is a need to be ready.”– Rob Harlan, Solar Energy Society of Alberta
There is going to be a lot of growth in this industry soon as a result of a new provincial incentive program for solar panels, and the city needs to be ready for this, he added.
The Alberta government is putting up $36 million over two years for a rebate program to encourage rooftop solar panels on homes and businesses.
The rebates are expected to be available as early as this summer, said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips during the program’s announcement last month.
“There really is a need for the city to be ready for the amount of applications they’ll likely be seeing as a direct result of this incentive program,” Harlan said.
“Right now there’s, I believe, about 1,800 solar on-grid electric systems in the province,” he said. “The goal of the province is 5,000 to 10,000 by 2020.”
A public hearing on the proposed bylaw changes is set for April 10.
By: Robert Ferris
Tesla will begin taking orders for its solar roof tiles in April, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Musk confirmed the news in a long list of tweets he unleashed on Friday.
Tesla unveiled the solar roof shingles in late October of last year, in the days leading up to the shareholder vote on Tesla’s acquisition of the solar power company SolarCity, of which Musk had already been chairman.
The roof tiles will come in four styles: terra cotta, slate, textured glass and smooth glass, Tesla said.
The company plans to integrate the solar roof product with its existing stationary energy storage business and its electric cars.