The Energy Technology Perspectives 2023 report predicts that if countries worldwide actually implement their announced energy and climate pledges, the global market for key mass-manufactured clean energy technologies will be worth around USD 650 billion a year by 2030. That’s 3 times today. And Canada is in the thick of it.
Canada ranks #2 on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2023. With unprecedented global demand, acceleration of technologies, and geo-political shifts, Canada stands as a prominent player in the field, completely equipped to capitalize on emerging opportunities both domestically and internationally.
Canada’s confidence in the industry has been further reinforced by the latest 2023 Budget, which features significant investment in the clean energy and cleantech industry.
In this blog, we delve deeper into the Cleantech Industry in Canada:
- What is considered cleantech?
- Canada’s cleantech industry: Goals & Actions
- Canada’s leading cleantech companies and what they do
- Resources for cleantech startups in Canada
- Government programs and funding for cleantech startups in Canada
What is Cleantech?
Cleantech was coined and popularised by the VC community in the late 1990s and early 2000s, notably Nick Parker and Keith Raab, who went on to found the Cleantech Group in San Francisco in 2002 ( to this day, they still remain an authority on coordinating activities within the sector globally.)
“Cleantech” used to encompass a broad spectrum of technologies and practices, like solar and wind energy generation or process enhancements in supply chains and production operations.
However, now that environmental concerns have become a much more mainstream part of our discourse, the term cleantech has a very explicit environmental connotation with highly evolved taxonomy, coexisting with terms such as “green technology” or “eco-friendly technology.”
Cleantech in Canada
In Canada, the sector is often called cleantech or environmental and cleantech (ECT) sector. The Government of Canada defines clean technology as:
- Any good or service designed with the primary purpose of contributing to remediating or preventing any type of environmental damage.
- Any good or service that is less polluting or more resource efficient than equivalent normal products that furnish a similar utility.
Or, simply put, any process, product or service that reduces environmental impacts.
The suite of cleantech products, according to the Canadian government, can fall under these industries and applications: Air, environment and remediation, Water and wastewater, Waste and recycling, Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts, Renewable and non-emitting energy supply, Smart grid and energy storage, Energy efficiency, Precision agriculture, forestry, and biodiversity, Mining, processing, materials, manufacturing and industry, and Transportation.
Since 2017, the Canadian government has invested over $2.3 billion in clean technology innovation, commercialization, and adoption. This has created a diverse ecosystem of programs and services to support promising cleantech entrepreneurs and adopters in Canada. As of April 2022, Canada has 2427 cleantech firms across industries and provinces.
- In 2019, Canada’s Clean Technology Table announced that clean technology should be one of Canada’s top five exporting industries by 2025, with a target export value of $20 billion annually.
- As of 2021, Canada’s export of ECT products had already reached $17.9 billion, marking a $3.2 billion increase from 2020, thus implying that Canada is well on its way to achieving its $25 billion target for ECT exports by 2025.
- The United States serves as the primary destination for the majority of Canadian ECT product exports. In 2021, ECT exports to the United States totalled $13.6 billion.
- The sector grew from $67.8 billion in 2020 to $73.1 billion in 2021, representing approximately 2.9% of Canada’s GDP.
- Ontario held the largest share in GDP contribution to the sector. In 2021, Ontario represented 34.5%, while Quebec accounted for 29.8%, and British Columbia accounted for 15.1%.
- As of 2021, the sector employs a workforce of 314,257.
Similar to 2020, clean technology products, primarily manufactured goods, constituted slightly over half, 51.4% or $9.2 billion of total ECT product exports in 2021 as well. Exported waste and scrap goods for recycling comprised 27.6% of the sector’s export value, while clean electricity accounted for 14.0% of the exports.
Canada’s Leading Cleantech Industries in a Snapshot
Canada has established itself as a global leader by being the 2nd most represented country in the Global Cleantech 100. Canada also ranks #3 as the producer of hydroelectricity in the world and holds an impressive 20% share of the world’s large-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage projects.
Among the many industries and applications, water, carbon capture, and renewable energy take centre stage within Canada’s cleantech space.
Canada, rich in renewable energy and biomass resources, is a global epicentre of expertise and a destination for collaborative R&D in renewable energy because over 50% of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable sources.
Giants such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and EDF Renewables continue to invest in major solar, wind, and renewable energy projects in Canada, leveraging our expertise and collaborative R&D opportunities.
Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage:
As nations around the world are focused on carbon reduction and net-zero goals, Canada is concentrating on carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
For example, in Nova Scotia, CarbonCure is injecting CO2 into wet concrete, strengthening it while reducing cement usage.
Major fossil fuel companies, like Shell Canada, have also found ways to innovate with carbon capture and storage (CCS), enabling emissions reduction while utilizing fossil fuels. Shell Canada’s CCS facility in Alberta is exclusively storing CO2 in deep, non-potable saline water formations.
Canada excels in water innovation, with breakthrough technologies like UV lights and AI enhancing water quality alongside solutions for agricultural manure treatment and chemical analysis for contaminants.
Canadian water technology companies work across many industries to drive water management and treatment, like agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and mining.
Simultaneously, Canada’s water technology network, waterNEXT, is helping researchers and companies to accelerate the commercialization and adoption of water technologies.
Canada’s Leading Cleantech Companies
Many Canadian clean technology companies have already demonstrated their prowess in delivering practical and result-oriented innovations to the world; in fact, the latest Global CleanTech 100 list for 2023 has 12 Canadian companies featured.
Meet some of Canada’s leading cleantech companies moving the needle to net zero:
- Carbon Upcycling, a Calgary-based business, is a Supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) producer. They capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources, combine them with natural minerals or industrial by-products, and lock them away in stronger, more durable concrete using its catalytic reactor technology.
Most recently, Carbon Upcycling, in collaboration with the US Dept. of Energy-funded – National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – has been named part of a trans-national consortium aiming to evaluate alternative feedstocks like biomass, low-grade steel slags, and mine tailings in North America for sustainable production of supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs).
- Eavor Technologies is popularising geothermal energy by utilizing its Eavor-Loop, a reverse radiator system that harnesses geothermal heat from the ground to generate electricity.
Calgary-based Eavor Technologies recently raised CA$50 million in Series B funding led by OMV. The investment will expedite the commercialization of Eavor’s Eavor-Loop technology, a scalable and environmentally friendly geothermal energy solution.
- Ekona Power, a Vancouver-based cleantech venture, converts natural gas into hydrogen through low-cost pulse-combustion technology, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and potentially revolutionizing the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source.
In 2022 Ekona raised CAD $79 Million in equity investment to commercialize their clean hydrogen technology.
- e-Zinc has developed a low-cost electricity storage solution using zinc, which can store renewable energy and provide power during periods of low production, making it a promising option for remote communities and reducing reliance on diesel generators.
This Toronto-based cleantech company was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers” of 2023.
- GaN Systems, founded in 2008 in Ottawa, specializes in gallium nitride semiconductors, which are more efficient than traditional silicone ones, aiming to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste heat in various applications, such as smartphone chargers.
You might find ‘GaN chargers’ a familiar term since their tech now powers Samsung Galaxy S22+ and Ultra smartphones.
- Pani, a clean-tech SaaS company founded in 2017 in Vancouver, uses AI to optimize water treatment and desalination plants, reducing costs, improving efficiency, and addressing the global challenge of unmet clean water needs through data.
Most recently, Pani announced a new contract with SAWACO Water Desalination, launching Pani’s intelligent decision support platform at the South Jeddah Corniche Desalination Plant (SOJECO) in Saudi Arabia.
- Other companies representing Canadian cleantech in the Global CleanTech 100 include GHGSat (sensors for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from satellites or aircraft), Hydrostor (stores renewable energy using compressed air in underground caverns), Ionomr Innovations (cost-effective membranes for hydrogen capture through electrolysis), Mangrove Lithium (converts impure rock extracts into high-purity lithium hydroxide on-site), Moment Energy (repurposes old electric car batteries to store energy), and Svante (utilizes metal-organic filters to capture carbon dioxide emissions from flue gas streams)
The latest young batch of cleantech startups from Canada to keep an eye on are:
Acuicy, a Halifax-based startup, is helping companies achieve net-zero targets faster and cheaper with AI-driven carbon reduction solutions through a business intelligence platform.
Amatec, a Toronto-based climate tech startup, is developing High-Density Gypsum, a stronger, low-carbon substitute for concrete, enabling quick and affordable construction of panelized and modular homes.
Nanode Battery Technologies, an Edmonton-based startup, is revolutionizing EV and portable electronics charging with innovative battery anodes and manufacturing technology for rapid charging.
The three were recently selected by Venture For ClimateTech’s program to receive up to US$100,000 in funding and hands-on tech support on their way to commercialization.
Cleantech Resources and Organizations for Canadian Startups
If you are a startup in Canada entering or operating in the cleantech space, this list is your window into the world of resources, government programs, and support systems available to you.
Federal Knowledge Hub
The Clean Growth Hub is the primary hub for information, resources, and guidance on federal support for clean technology in Canada. You can also use them to receive guidance from government experts across teams who can assist you in identifying and comprehending the programs and services for your startups needs.
Canada’s Innovation Superclusters foster collaboration among industry leaders, SMEs, non-profit organizations, and post-secondary institutions to accelerate growth in five promising sectors:
- 1. Digital technologies
- 2. Plant proteins
- 3. Advanced Manufacturing
- 4. Artificial intelligence in supply chains
- 5. Oceans
As a startup in the cleantech space, if you think your product or service can add value to any of these sectors, you can apply for membership. Members have the opportunity to propose and participate in Supercluster projects. Approx $750 million over five years has been earmarked for Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters.
The Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association (OCTIA) exists to promote, foster and grow Ontario’s clean technology sector. They provide funding opportunities too.
The Ontario Environment Industry Association represents over 200 companies offering environmental products, technologies, and services to government and industry sectors.
The Ontario Water Consortium provides real-world technology demonstration opportunities and encourages collaboration between private companies and academic researchers to accelerate and commercialize innovative water technologies.
CanREA represents organizations and individuals directly involved in the development and application of wind, solar and energy storage technologies, products and services.
Industry Knowledge Hub
Energy Storage Canada is a membership-based organization that advances the energy storage industry in Canada through collaboration, education, policy advocacy and research.
Industry Knowledge Hub
HBC is a community bringing together knowledge and opportunities to realize the benefits of hydrogen energy.
CERL, situated at Ontario Tech’s north Oshawa site, is a premier facility that aims to pioneer clean energy research and uncover major solutions to the problem of climate change. Currently, researchers are pioneering the world’s initial lab-scale demonstration of a copper-chlorine cycle for thermochemical water splitting and nuclear hydrogen production.
The EaRTH District, comprising five GTA Colleges and Universities, is dedicated to sector-focused research and education, driving innovative technology solutions for sustainable, resilient communities worldwide.
Partnered with Trent University, Cleantech Commons offers a Research and Innovation Park for startups, spinouts, growth ventures, and corporate accelerators focussed on cleantech.
Foresight is a top Canadian cleantech accelerator, driving innovation and adoption of competitive solutions. They offer regional support to businesses across Canada. They provide funding opportunities too.
MaRS Cleantech supports innovative startups and organizations in advancing clean technology, and facilitating product commercialization. They offer expert advice, and connections to talent, capital, and global markets. They provide funding opportunities too.
BIC is a leading business accelerator for sustainable chemistry, creating a successful foundation to support two emerging hybrid chemistry clusters in Ontario.
Écotech Québec mobilizes participants in the green economy to create favourable conditions for business growth and development. They provide funding opportunities too.
Cleantech Grants, Exemptions, and Funding Opportunities for Canadian Startups
The Canadian 2023 Budget was heavily focused on the green economy, specifically, cleantech development and accelerating Canada’s transition away from fossil fuels. Some of the highlights included $500 million over 10 years to SIF for cleantech, legislative amendments to enable more clean economy investments from Canada Growth Fund, new 30 percent Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit, a new 15 percent Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit, $368.4 million over three years for forest sector innovation, $333 million over 10 years for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada R&D efforts, and more.
If you’re wondering which funding opportunities would match your cleantech startup, here’s a list of grants, tax exemptions, non-repayable funding, and federal contributions for you:
Federal funding up to CA$10 million for technology innovations and expert business and technical advice.
Federal funding to help create jobs and position local economies for long-term growth. Businesses are eligible for interest-free repayable contributions for up to 50% of eligible costs.
Federal grants between CA $20,000 – $1 million for natural science and engineering R&D projects.
Federal funding between CA $500,000 and CA $10M for industrial initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Federal income tax deduction and investment tax credit for R&D activities.
Federal funding of non-dilutive contributions of $50,000 to $100,000 for promising early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs for innovative technological projects with environmental and sustainability benefits.
Federal funding of non-repayable contribution of an average of 33% (up to 40%) of eligible projects costs, or an average contribution of $2 million to $4 million, with funds disbursed over the life of the project up to a five-year period, for the development and demonstration of clean technologies and early commercialization.
Federal funding of a minimum of $10 million to cover a maximum of 50% of eligible project costs. for large innovation projects across industrial and technology sectors.
Federal funding, minimum $10M contribution; $20M total project costs. for projects reducing GHG emissions.
Federal funding for Planning and Design Projects, covering up to 80% of total eligible costs.Capital Projects: Contribution funding to cover up to 50% of total eligible costs. Projects may also be eligible for financing through the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) Zero Emission Buses Initiative.
Federal tax deduction for clean energy equipment and equipment for manufacturing and processing goods.
Federal funding up to CA$2 million to develop or improve agricultural technology.
Federal funding in repayable contributions of up to $5 million to cover 50% of eligible project costs in the agriculture and agri-food sector.
New equity and commercial loans for high-potential cleantech companies.
Venture fund for entrepreneurs with bold ideas building global companies.
Venture fund dedicated to investing in businesses developing technologies that will support Canada and the world meet sustainability and climate targets.
Federal tax deductions related to startup costs of eligible clean energy generation and energy conservation projects.
Federal funding for domestic biomass feedstock infrastructure.
Employers can receive up to CA $15,000 in wage funding.
The federal incentive for Canadian organizations (for-profit and non-profit), provinces, territories and municipalities to purchase/lease MHZEVs.
You can always find more benefits available to your cleantech startup in Canada by browsing Clean Growth Hub, Business Benefits Finder or the Canada Business App.
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