Suddenly it’s a good time to be in Canada if you are in the business of providing technology or services that reduce environmental impacts. The federal government’s 2016 budget allocates billions of dollars, through a variety of programs, towards clean technologies and to address climate change.
Wait, what’s clean technology?
Often confused with clean energy, ‘clean tech’ is any product or service that improves operational performance, productivity, or efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, or environmental pollution. It’s a broad field. Thus while a wind energy turbine could certainly be considered clean tech, so could a solvent that facilitates cleaning up an oil spill, or a computer program that optimizes water consumption in a dishwasher.
The extent of the federal investment is significant. Funding is being made available for all stages of commercialization of a product or service – from research, to development, to demonstration. The budget makes specific reference that clean tech investments are to be made available in support of the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture sectors, and includes specific funds for the oil and gas industry.
In short, the opportunities are broad, align well with Newfoundland and Labrador’s key sectors, and can apply to any business which seeks to help make processes and operations… better.
Municipalities will also have access to significant funding to help them address climate change in their communities. The budget aims to ‘support municipality-led projects to identify and implement greenhouse gas reduction opportunities, including the assessment of local climate risks and the integration of these impacts into asset management plans’. It also is making more funding available for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to build the capacity to make long-term planning decisions around infrastructure, and to address wastewater issues. In addition, reserves have been targeted for investment relating to water, wastewater, waste management, and energy. When a municipality moves on an environmental project, that creates new economic activity and potentially work for local firms.
As well, the federal government is placing a new focus on public and private transportation and its effects on the environment. Newfoundland and Labrador will be the beneficiary of $4.9 million from a new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund focusing on efficiency and the reduction of emissions. Plus, money is being allocated to support the demonstration and deployment of infrastructure for alternative transportation fuels, including refuelling stations for electric, natural gas, and hydrogen vehicles.
This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of green economy funding opportunities from the budget; it simplifies the funding schemes and excludes money being made available for infrastructure as well as applicable programs that are already in place. But what is evident from the breakdown is that this new range of programming, which is being rolled out in a 2-5 year timeframe, could provide incredible opportunities for businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador.
What form does that opportunity take for business in this province? Doesn’t it just benefit those who already have clean tech products and services and are looking to grow? No. These investments also represent a new avenue of support for businesses who wouldn’t necessarily classify themselves as being ‘environmental’ but who want to explore how they can increase performance while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, or environmental pollution. Who doesn’t want to improve performance?
There are two dangers here for Newfoundland and Labrador which could impact how successful its firms and municipalities are in collectively benefitting from these investments. First, organizations in our province typically have not been very effective (aggregately) in pursuing federal programs. From green funding for municipalities to industrial research and development supports, Newfoundland and Labrador does not acquire its share of national funding. This is less of an injustice and more a reflection of the fact we are not consistently applying for them.
Second, given the ambitious timelines associated with these funding opportunities, agencies will be aggressively trying to support good projects. Are we ready? Newfoundland and Labrador is not the most environmentally progressive jurisdiction in Canada – by a long shot – and as a result our businesses, supports, and regulators may not grasp clean tech concepts and opportunities as quickly as our neighbours. If Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t take advantage of its portion of these funds, will the money instead be diverted to projects in other provinces?
At a time when Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy is struggling, strong participation in these programs could yield significant benefits and go a long way in contributing to its diversification. But in order to capitalize on the opportunity, stakeholders will have to work closely together to encourage firms to engage in clean tech projects; identify and quickly remove any barriers to success (e.g. outdated regulations); and be agile and versatile in order to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
Suddenly it’s a good time to be in Canada if you are in the business of providing technology or services that reduce environmental impacts. If your organization isn’t considering how it can be more productive through the development or use of clean tech… why not?