Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech Vancouver, BC Canada

Vancouver is a global destination for companies to develop and demonstrate emerging clean energy technologies, green transportation systems, energy efficiency solutions, water technologies and green building technology. With one of the largest cleantech businesses communities in North America, Vancouver is positioned as a leading centre of green economic development, investment, and job creation. Here are the top ten reasons why Vancouver, BC, Canada belongs in a list of the top cleantech regions of the world.

1) Spreading Cleantech philosophy. Vancouver is part of the large economic region Pacific Northwest and with its cultural and historical ties to Asia is in the unique position to successfully share business ideas and technologies and open the gate with Asia. Currently, many future leaders are being educated in Vancouver on some of the top cleantech activities that can be transposed onto the Asian scene.

2) Large Cleantech Funding. Vancouver is known for implementing some of the most progressive and effective policies worldwide, including an essential carbon tax, a ban on fossil fuels for electricity generation, and stricter regulations on vehicle and building emissions. To do this, Vancouver needs proper funding. The Innovative Clean Energy Fund (ICE) provides companies that look into renewable energy technologies that can be used for commercial application with $25 million annually. BioEnergy Strategy has provided $25 million to encourage research and developing in areas including wood-waste cogeneration, biofuel production, and wood pellet production. One last example, Green Infrastructure Fund has allotted $1 billion over a five year period to address five of the nine major cleantech sectors – water and wastewater, power generation, energy infrastructure, recycling and waste, and carbon transmission and storage company’s process efficiency and abatement.

3) Targeting greenhouse gas emissions. To manage emissions, Vancouver has set a goal to reach a 33% reduction of emission levels by 2020, and a 50% reduction by 2050. They have also started funding all new electricity generation projects that do not emit any harmful gas emissions, and work based of renewable energy. To goal is to eventually have renewable energy comprise at least 90% of the total electrical generation. Vancouver has currently set up a number of legislations to see this through, including new tailpipe emission standards. One way they are seeking to lower greenhouse gas emissions is through a cap and trade system that will include a number of financial penalties businesses will incur if they do not make positive steps in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced by their company.

4) Strong push on green buildings. By making the push toward green buildings, Vancouver hopes to raise overall efficiency and lower emissions. One neighborhood has taken sustainability to a whole new level by implementing LEED platinum, which results in overall energy reduction and high-performance. Examples of buildings going green include the New Convention Centre and Whistler Olympic Village.

5) Enthusiastic early adopters. Vancouver’s local population shows significant enthusiasm for clean technologies and is an excellent city to test out new cleantech products. Local leaders and decision makers from various communities have recognized the benefits of cleantech sectors and have showed as a result great interest in adopting cleantech ventures and pilot projects. Even just small items, such as creating more bike racks can do so much within the city.

6) Vancouver Greenest City Initiative. Vancouver’s Greenest City Initiative is promoting green sectors and technology. By 2020, Vancouver looks to create 20,000 green jobs and reduce the total amount of weight sent to landfills by at least 50%. Currently, Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint of any major city in North America, and through this initiative, they aim to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

7) Highest Ratio of Cleantech companies to GDP in Canada. Vancouver has long been an active and growing base of emerging cleantech companies, and is currently home to 25% of all cleantech companies in Canada. The cleantech industry has been a driving factor in the economic growth of not just Vancouver, but the province of British Columbia as a whole. Currently, British Columbia’s cleantech sector has enabled it to raise its GDP by 175%.

8) Pacific Carbon Trust. Started in 2008, Pacific Carbon Trust in Vancouver looks to create and implement various carbon offset products, to assist clients meet their goals of overall carbon reduction, and to foster and support the total growth of a low carbon economy throughout British Columbia. It was created to address the current climate change problems and what businesses can do to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the work of Pacific Carbon Trust, British Columbia implemented the world’s first revenue- neutral carbon tax on fossil fuels.

9) Strong academic support. The University of British Columbia Vancouver campus has created numerous initiatives to create a living lab that can be used to identify different climate change solutions. Another example for the strong push on the academia is the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium that were established for $94 .5 million to bring together universities, government and the private sector to identify climate change solutions.

10) Vancouver Greentech Exchange. In response to the rapid climate change, Vancouver is making the move not only toward cleantech, but also greentech, which are enterprises and technologies that produce a positive environmental impact. Through exchange, Vancouver Greentech looks to link greentech and cleantech companies with different market access programs to spread the word about greentech. This is done through important meetings between the two groups to share ideas and experiences that will spread green ideas that can be utilized.

Shawn Lesser is the president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at

Florian Gabriel is Trade Commissioner for Switzerland based in Vancouver and Deputy Director of the Swiss Business Hub in Canada. He can be reached at

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2 comments on “Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech Vancouver, BC Canada

In the context of point 2, “Large Cleantech Funding”, you should also add that Vancouver is a centre for cleantech VCs. Having cut their teeth (and made a lot of money) starting with Ballard in the late ’80’s, groups like Ventures West and GrowthWorks developed some cleantech expertise long before it became a major VC interest. Today, Vancouver-based funds like Pangaea, Chrysalix and Yaletown have teams of well-respected cleantech specialists, investing in the best cleantech companies not only in Vancouver, but around the world.

And for balance, some counterarguments

* State dominance of large industry and electricity sector in particular, means little “pull-through” of smaller companies

* State dominance of early-stage funding

* Political influence in ICE funding

* Mining industry conservatism (lack of risk-tolerant capital)

* No serial entrepreneurs

* Low population, remote market

* Provincial leadership uncertainty

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