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Vancouver has a large number of medium and small companies active in sustainability-related industries. Greater Vancouver companies accounted for almost half of Deloitte’s “Technology Green 15 Companies” in 2007. Many sustainability-related firms are active in export markets, such as BioteQ, which has a unique bacteria-based process to remediate waste water generated by mining activities.
The region has a particularly impressive record in two areas: clean technology and sustainable urban development.
Vancouver is home to 70 per cent of B.C.’s clean technology sector, with more than 800 companies and more than 12,000 employees. Vancouver is especially strong in advanced energy solutions, with roughly 90 alternative energy companies, employing 3,000 people and generating revenues of $750 million. This includes companies working in solar, wind and tidal power; bio-energy; and power technologies.
Vancouver is home to leading innovators in hydrogen, fuel cell and natural gas engines, including Ballard Power, QuestAir Technologies and Westport Innovations. The hydrogen and fuel cell sector in B.C. is the largest in the world and represents 75 per cent of Canadian fuel cell and hydrogen-based R&D expenditures. B.C. accounts for 70 per cent of Canada’s employment in this sector.
The power electronics sub-sector is one of the most commercially advanced sub-sectors in clean technology, with well over $600 million in annual revenues, and a number of internationally well known firms, such as NxtPhase T&D Corporation, Xantrax Technology and Alpha Technologies. Vancouver’s PowerTech Labs - a subsidiary of B.C. Hydro, which supplies 90 per cent of the provinces’s electricity - offers world-leading expertise in grid management. Advanced battery and charging systems is another area of strength: B.C. is home to North America’s only manufacturer of cylindrical Li-ion rechargeable batteries, and also the world’s only commercial manufacturer of flow batteries.
Sustainable urban development, including design and development of certified green buildings, is another industry where Vancouver and B.C. are North American leaders. B.C. was the first province in Canada to adopt the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system (LEED©) and has 42 per cent of all LEED©-certified buildings in Canada, most of them in Greater Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver has an ambitious program to curb greenhouse gas emissions in its own operations and in the community. Even though the city’s population has increased 24 per cent since 1990, and the number of jobs has increased 14 per cent, emissions from City operations have declined five per cent in the same period, while community-wide emissions have risen only five per cent. Emissions per capita are about half those of Toronto, and about a third of those in nearby cities such as Calgary, Seattle and Portland.
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Vancouver has a sophisticated infrastructure to develop sustainable technologies, including industry and university research labs, testing centers, industry associations and other non-profit organizations. The Vancouver-based organization GLOBE Foundation hosts a major internationally recognized bi-annual conference on the environmental industry.
British Columbia’s advanced energy sector is poised for continued, rapid expansion. The B.C. government’s energy plan aims to secure 50 per cent of incremental power requirements from clean energy sources. The province has abundant natural resources to generate advanced energy, including tidal and wind power; wood that can be converted to pellets or alternative fuels; large coal deposits that can be used for coal-bed methane; and biomass that can be burned for fuel.
Close business ties with Asia offer a strategic advantage as do proximity to U.S. markets, and existing tie-ins to cross-border transmission systems and U.S. energy hubs. The B.C. government is also part of the Western Climate Initiative, an alliance of Western U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
Government is a critical enabler of sustainability, particularly sustainable urban development. In 2007, FastCompany Magazine named Vancouver as a “Green Leader,” noting the city’s EcoDensity initiative, which makes sustainability the foundation of building construction, transportation infrastructure investments, neighbourhood development and zoning. Greater Vancouver won the 2003 International Gas Association worldwide competition to create the best hundred-year sustainability plan for a metropolitan area.
Building a livable and sustainable city has been the thrust of the City of Vancouver’s urban planning activity for more than 30 years and has won many national and international awards. The City’s “living first” strategy sparked new cosmopolitan, residential neighbourhoods around the downtown commercial core, creating one of the most vibrant and diverse downtowns in North America.
The private sector plays an equally important role in Vancouver’s pre-eminence in sustainable urban development. Vancouver has particularly strong expertise in urban environmental planning and design; cities like Dubai, Las Vegas and Albuquerque are applying sustainable urban planning lessons from Vancouver to their own urban development.
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Research & Development
The B.C. government has a comprehensive energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that includes significant incentives, such as a $25 million Innovative Clean Energy Fund to showcase advanced energy technologies with strong export potential. The B.C. and Canadian governments are partnering to invest $89 million for hydrogen fuel cell fuelling stations and the world’s first fleet of 20 fuel cell busses.
The Canadian government provides financial resources to support R&D in advanced energy and clean technology. The Eco Energy for Renewable Power Program encourages investment in energy conservation and renewable energy projects, with a total commitment of $1.48 billion.
The Vancouver-based National Research Council Canada Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation works with universities, government agencies and companies on projects focused on the research, development, demonstration and testing of hydrogen and fuel cell systems. Sustainable Development Technology Canada is a not-for-profit foundation with an investment fund of $550 million that finances and supports the development and demonstration of clean technologies.
The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program is a federal tax incentive designed to encourage research and development in Canada. Qualifying non-Canadian companies are eligible to receive tax credits of 20 per cent of qualified expenditures. Canadian companies receive enhanced credits. The B.C. government adds a ten per cent tax credit for qualifying Canadian and non-Canadian corporations that conduct R&D in British Columbia.
The National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) provides a range of technical and business-oriented advisory services to support growth-oriented Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises. This can include non-repayable contributions to Canadian firms interested in research to develop their services, products and processes. The program has contributed more than $570 million to more than 30,000 projects. In 2007-2008, approximately $13 million was available to firms in B.C.
British Columbia offers tax credits of 30 per cent to qualified resident investors who provide venture capital to small businesses conducting R&D on proprietary technologies. Investment must be made through a venture capital corporation or directly to an eligible business corporation. Early-stage ventures are also eligible for support from the B.C. government’s $90 million B.C. Renaissance Capital Fund.
British Columbia's International Business Activity Act (IBAA) allows incorporated Canadian companies with permanent establishments in B.C. to recoup up to 100% of provincial corporate income taxes on international income from patents related to wind, solar and tidal power generation.
British Columbia provides a number of other targeted incentives for alternative energy production, including partial abatement of property taxes, exemptions from sales tax and accelerated depreciation allowances for tax purposes. There is also a Government of Canada incentive for wind power production.
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Non-profit society that promotes B.C. as a centre for international business activity and encourages corporations to take advantage of favorable tax treatment under Internatioal Business Activity Act (IBAA).
BC Environment Industry Association
Industry association comprising engineering & environmental service companies, and technology companies.
BC Hydro (Power Smart
Program, BC Hydro Research and Development Fund)
The largest provider of electricity in B.C. and a major contributor to the development of advanced energy solutions.
B.C. Ministry of Economic Development
Provincial government department that promotes commerce and investment in B.C. and administers B.C.’s venture capital programs.
BC Pellet Fuel Manufacturers Association
Association working to advance wood pellet firing technology.
BC Sustainable Energy Association
Non-profit society of citizens, professionals and practitioners promoting sustainable energy, energy efficiency and conservation.
B.C. Technology Industry Association (BCTIA)
Non-profit organization that supports the growth of B.C.’s technology industry through a variety of programs and initiatives.
Biodiesel Association of Canada
Association that promotes the development of a Canadian commercial bio-diesel industry.
Canada Green Building Council
A national coalition based in Vancouver that works to accelerate the design and construction of green buildings in Canada.
Canadian Wind Energy Association
Non-profit trade association that promotes development of wind energy.
Non-profit that works in partnership with government, business, and community organizations to promote environmental sustainability.
Community Energy Association
Non-profit society that promotes energy conservation, energy efficiency and green energy supplies through community projects.
David Suzuki Foundation
Foundation that seeks ways for society to live in balance with the natural world.
Fuel Cells Canada
Vancouver-based national industry association for the hydrogen and fuel cells industry.
Association of private and public entities, providing information and resources for the growing geo-exchange industry.
Vancouver-based nonprofit organization seeking practical business-oriented solutions to environmental problems. Hosts an international conference on sustainability every two years in Vancouver.
Partnership between government and industry to support Canada’s transition to a hydrogen economy.
Independent Power Producers Association of British Columbia
Association of power suppliers, power retailers, and supporting industries.
International Centre for Sustainable Cities
Non-profit that advances sustainable urban practices, particularly planning for long-term sustainability, in developing countries.
National Research Council of Canada
Canadian government agency that provides support to small- and medium-sized businesses. It has an office in Vancouver.
Sustainable Technology Development Canada
National foundation that finances and supports the development and demonstration of clean technologies.
Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program
Consortium of the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, Fuel Cells Canada, and Ford Motor Company, established to conduct the first fleet demonstration of fuel cell cars in Canada.
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British Columbia Institute of Technology
Centre for the Advancement of Green Roof Technology
Photovoltaic Energy Applied Research Lab (PEARL)
Simon Fraser University
Canadian Industrial Energy End−Use Data and Analysis Centre
Energy and Materials Research Group (EMRG)
Mathematics and Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) National Centre of Excellence
University of British Columbia
Centre for Advanced Wood Processing
Centre for Environmental Research in Minerals, Metals and Materials (CERM3)
Centre for Human Settlements
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
Centre for Landscape Research
Clean Energy Research Center
School of Community and Regional Planning
Structured Surface Physics Laboratory
Photo Credit: Finavera Renewables Inc.