Regulation and Innovation in Cleantech: A Win-Win Scenario
- Performance-based pollution regulations can help the oil and gas sector grow while reducing its total emissions.
- The federal government has committed $2.3 billion in its budget to cleantech growth and is working towards streamlining its various programs for the sector through a clean growth hub.
- In the digital era, companies and government should use big data and collaborate to accelerate the performance of the cleantech sector.
If Canadian cleantech companies have the opportunity to scale up and expand, there is a $3 trillion global market for their products and services, especially in China and India. Canada’s public and private sectors must mobilize now to seize this massive opportunity.
What is the potential of Canada’s cleantech sector?
There is an enormous opportunity for Canadian businesses in clean technology to grow and capture a large share of global markets, while improving environmental outcomes. Clean technology can create jobs in Canada, grow the GDP and help scale up some of the great technology companies that are already in the Canadian market and exporting abroad. Canada’s current GDP growth rate is at 2%. If we do not grow at a faster rate, we will not have a sustainable lifestyle in this country. We are also falling behind in clean technology – a market place that is projected to be worth over $3 trillion. Canada does a very good job with clean technology innovation at the start-up phase, but falls behind in the commercialization and growth of these technologies. As the 2017 Global Innovation Index shows, we have weak domestic adoption and that becomes a barrier for Canadian cleantech companies as they try to export and grow globally. If we can find a way to help companies scale up, commercialize and take more of a balanced approach, it would allow Canada to participate in the global market in a much more meaningful way.
“We are falling behind in clean technology – a market place that is projected to be worth over $3 trillion.”
Canada has a very strong workforce as well, but there are some underrepresented groups in clean technology, including females and minority groups. We have to take advantage of all the skillsets we have in Canada to unlock the country’s mass potential. We are in an exciting era where we are getting more and more international collaboration around the transition to a lower carbon economy. This is a critical time to make sure we get it right in Canada so that we are part of that global cleantech initiative. We also need to make sure we support cleantech companies and give them what they need to grow. Canada needs to focus on the full value chain for long-term success in the cleantech sector: innovation scale-up, market development and trade.
What should the government’s role be in growing Canada’s cleantech sector?
When the Canadian federal government looked at its Economic Strategy Tables for Budget 2017, they chose clean technology as an area of focus for the nation’s future prosperity. Overall, the government has committed $2.3 billion in their budget to help the Canadian cleantech sector grow. When you look at all the different federal initiatives from a technology company’s perspective, however, they can be very laborious and confusing. A little technology company that is trying to grow and scale up does not have a staff of 50 to navigate all of these different public programs. To combat this issue, the federal government announced initiatives that included a clean growth hub with the intent of streamlining current services. Having a single window champion means small and medium enterprises are not running around to so many different provincial and federal organizations for support.
“There is an enormous opportunity for Canadian businesses in clean technology to grow and capture a large share of global markets, while improving environmental outcomes.”
At the end of the day, we are all looking for ways to be more efficient. In the new digital economy, we have this wealth of data. If we collaborate and use it wisely, this information will give us a chance to accelerate our performance and have much stronger outcomes. The government has convened six Strategy Tables to grow the economy; Clean Technology, Clean Resources, Agri-food, Health, Manufacturing and Digital. In this synergetic environment, we have a chance to work in collaboration for stronger outcome in all industries. I am focusing on chairing the Clean Technology Strategy Table because I really believe in Canada’s cleantech sector. It is an enormous opportunity for us to grow our GDP, diversify the economy and create meaningful jobs in Canada.
Where do you see the most credible opportunities for collaboration and investment with Asia?
Certainly, both India and China have made large commitments to reducing their carbon footprint. They have enormous issues with air quality and pollution, and –because both have made strategic goals and put regulation in place – are committed to meeting the Paris Agreement. China is very focused on air quality improvements and greenhouse gas emission reduction. In fact, the Chinese government is implementing regulation to support this environmental theme, which can also encourage public adoption. This is a wonderful opportunity for Canadian clean technology companies. Canada has a very strong innovation entrepreneurship network that is prime for global expansion. In the cleantech sector, there is a great opportunity to collaborate and deploy our technology in China and India – two very large markets.
“We are in an exciting era where we are getting more and more international collaboration around the transition to a lower carbon economy. This is a critical time to make sure we get it right in Canada so that we are part of that global cleantech initiative.”
In 2006-2007, Questor was approached to help deal with hydrogen sulfide gas because we are seen as world leaders in this sector. In fact, there are many Canadian technologies that are recognized globally as being best in class. The nation is a leader in water treatment, an area that has enormous global challenges. Canada also has a leading position in energy efficiency and certainly holds some strengths in the renewable space as well. We have to take some of these Canadian developing stars and help them scale up and grow if we want to own the clean technology podium. That is also one of the reasons I agreed to chair the Clean Technology Economic Strategy Table, because I do think we do have a wonderful, strong brand. We just need to celebrate and support our stars in our own backyard, adopt some of the new technologies and work to get Canada a larger role on the global stage.
Do you believe Canada can grow its oil and gas industry while at the same time reducing its total emissions?
I believe it can. Colorado has shown that it is possible to have a strong, thriving oil and gas industry along with lower emissions and improved air quality. The share price of my company has tripled in the last six months because of tough emission regulation that requires companies to cleanly combust waste gas using technology like Questor’s in Colorado. The state had an air quality issue and the greater Denver area was considered a non-attainment zone, meaning the air quality did not meet the US National standards. The poor air quality and odour issues, caused by waste gas flaring, venting and fugitive emissions, were upsetting the surrounding public who were asking the courts to impose moratoriums on oil and gas activity. The introduction of performance-based emission regulation focused specifically on pollutants, resolved the conflict and created a win-win for all stakeholders. As a result, the state has improved air quality in the area and is well on its way to meeting its climate change goals.
“If we can find a way to help companies scale up, commercialize and take more of a balanced approach, it would allow Canada to participate in the global market in a much more meaningful way.”
Questor moved a significant portion of our rental fleet from Canada to Colorado in 2016 to meet demand and grew the fleet from 27 to 64 units in 2017. This year we will double the fleet again. The GHG emission reductions that our technology has created for Colorado in less than a year is 6% of Canada’s national target. We have also reduced our client’s cost by 20% and reduced the size of their leases by 30%. Seven CEO’s running oil and gas companies in Colorado were interviewed and all of them have said the regulations have had a minimal impact on their bottom line. If anything, it has improved business because they are not wasting time in hearings and court fighting the public. Oil and gas companies in the state have received approval from the communities to drill wells, build pipelines and construct facilities because they have created this social license by dealing with the public’s concerns in a proactive way. Having clear, performance-based regulation has created a win-win for every single stakeholder, including a clean technology company from Canada called Questor.
“Canada has a very strong innovation entrepreneurship network that is prime for global expansion. In the cleantech sector, there is a great opportunity to collaborate and deploy our technology in China and India – two very large markets.”
So yes, I believe Canada can grow its oil and gas industry while at the same time reducing its total emissions because Colorado has shown the way.
As a leader in the cleantech sector, what are three lessons you can share for organizational success?
First, have a clear vision, belief and passion in what you want to achieve, no matter what people tell you. In 1999, I went home and announced to my husband that I was going to work for $20,000 a year and had put money into this company called Questor that was really a start-up at the time. He looked at me and said, “Okay, help me understand this. You are turning down all these high paying jobs in oil and gas, the nanny is going to make more money than you, and no one is ever going to care about the environment.” I said it did not matter, this is what I was passionate about and someday people would see the value of paying attention to what we breathe. I have been amazingly lucky in my career and this was my opportunity to give back.
“There are some underrepresented groups in clean technology, including females and minority groups. We have to take advantage of all the skillsets we have in Canada to unlock the country’s mass potential.”
The next important thing is to make sure you build good equipment. One of the secrets to Questor’s success is our client’s field employees who love our equipment because it works and they have become our biggest fans and our best advocates.
The third is you have to be clear on what value you bring to the table. No one does things solely because it is the right thing to do. It has to make business sense, and I strongly believe that. Overall, be smart, look at the bottom line and be strategic in how you transact. Also surround yourself with great people that believe in what you are trying to do.