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Federal policy, access to capital major barriers to Canadian clean energy industry: Pembina Institute

Canada's got the power, but the "clock is ticking". The country's clean technology sector is a "major driver" of job growth and innovation, and could be worth $60 billion by 2020, according to a report by the Pembina Institute. But, while the development of Canada’s fossil fuel commodities (from oilsands to shale gas and coal) sets to accelerate, Canada is currently capturing just one per cent of the booming clean energy market.

Competing in Clean Energy: Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion economy details the opportunities and challenges that face Canada in the global transition to clean energy — a market set to grow to $3 trillion by 2020.

“While meteorologists in Australia add new colours to their temperature forecast maps following record heat waves and wild fires, clean energy entrepreneurs in Europe, Asia and the U.S. are busy capitalizing on investments in decarbonizing energy systems,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute and co-author of the report, in a press release.

With more than 700 companies, Canada’s cleantech sector grew job numbers by 11 per cent and invested almost $2 billion in research and development between 2008 and 2010.

Yet venture capital investment, especially from large institutional investors, is declining: from about $3.3 billion in 2000 to less than $1 billion in 2012. And Canadian companies have landed only two per cent of clean energy patents granted in the U.S. since 2002, compared to Korea’s five per cent, Germany’s seven per cent, and Japan’s 26 per cent.

The advice of nearly two dozen Canadian clean energy thought leaders on overcoming current obstacles is remarkably consistent, and includes:

  • Bridging capital gaps with federal financial tools;
  • Ongoing support for Sustainable Development Technology Canada;
  • Accelerating efforts to phase out remaining federal fossil fuel subsidies;
  • And a federal approach to pricing greenhouse gas pollution, as among the most important.

“Canada can compete in the global clean energy economy, but the clock is ticking,” says Whittingham. “The Prime Minister was right when he said that Canada needs to be a clean energy superpower to compete in the energy of tomorrow, but he needs to get serious about it now. While we might do well as a natural resources powerhouse today, those returns could be short lived.”

Visit the Pembina Institute’s website to download a copy of  or to read the executive summary.

See a multimedia presentation of the report's findings in the latest episode of Green Energy Futures.

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