Why Didn’t Any Canadian Clean-Tech Companies Make The Top 100?

By Roy L Hales

More than 500 start-ups, from 66 countries, made submissions. Though the Start-up Energy Transition Tech Festival is a German Energy Agency (Dena) initiative, even a casual perusal of literature reveals its’ international  character. The General Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) were among the presenters. The list of speakers included representatives from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Hyperloop Technologies. So why didn’t any Canadian clean-tech companies make the top 100?

Why Didn’t Any Canadian Clean-Tech Companies Make The Top 100?

Céline Bak, President of Analytica Advisors & co-chair of the Think Tank 20 (T20) task-force on climate policy and finance – courtesy Analytica Advsiors

This question must be particularly galling to our government, which has been presented with a list of the top 100 companies as a preparation for the G20 Summit in Hamburg, July 7-8, 2017.

I phoned someone at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), who wondered what this has to do with the Canadian Government. He gave me the phone number for their media department. The person answering suggested I write an email, which they did not answer.

On the festival’s homepage, it says “Thank you for being part of Start Up Energy Transition Tech Festival,” but neither of their press contacts responded to my emailed queries.

The answers came from an unexpected quarter.

Clean Energy Canada suggested I contact Céline Bak of Analytica Advisors,  the co-chair of the Think Tank 20 (T20) task-force on climate policy and finance.

Dropping The Baton

Courtesy G20 in Figures, FEDERAL STATISTICAL OFFICE OF GERMANY

“You’ve uncovered the fact that a baton was dropped. They’re busy with other things and probably don’t have a lot of time to explain why they dropped the baton,” said Bak.

“These are important initiatives, but are in early stages.  We are still in the process of building the partnerships that support international recognition programs.

“I would call this evidence that we perhaps we don’t have people at Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada or ISED monitoring this particular file. The process of actually engaging with innovative SMEs  (small and medium-sized enterprises) as part of solutions to climate change is nascent.”

“It would be interesting to know to what extent Canada is engaged in multilateral, plural-lateral, or bilateral discussions with the German Energy Agency.”

The Germans could also have initiated the contact. They could have approached the Trade Commission at Canada’s embassy in Berlin, or someone like Bak.

The French Institute of Intellectual Property asked for her assistance at Cop 21, in Paris. This led to three Canadian firms being recognized with an award.

None of these avenues appears to have been used for the Start Up Energy Transition Tech Festival.

Canadian Companies Are Not As Engaged

Courtesy G20 in Figures, FEDERAL STATISTICAL OFFICE OF GERMANY

Bak noticed the phrase “#GET100 for the #G20” at the top of their press release.

“This is a G20 initiative,” she said.

The G20 has a number of stakeholder engagement groups, identified by a letter plus 20. There is a Civil 20 (C20), Women 20 (W20), Think Tank 20 (T20). Business 20 (B20) was designed to bridge the energy file and private  energy sector.

“Large global Canadian firms are not engaged in multilateral processes. If I compare, for example, the engagement of U.K. and French companies in the G20-focused Business 20, it is far greater than Canada’s private sector. I think they should be more engaged because the private sector’s engagement on the climate file is accelerating and this is regardless of which administration is in the White House,”said Bak.

“They are accelerating for a number of reasons. Some of it is simply because there are some important disruptive cross curves that we’re going down. We’ve gone down the solar cost curves and the wind cost curves and now we are going down a number of others, including electric vehicles, the technology for self-driving cars and battery technology. Things are accelerating because costs are reducing and, as a result, technologies are becoming disruptive.”

“There is also an acceleration because of greater consensus around the science for climate change and the fact there is a carbon budget. It is like a balloon that we can only blow up to a certain point and if we blow it up any more than that it will explode. The impact of it exploding is that we have more than 2 degrees celsius warming and will never be able to attain 1.5.”

“This consensus has led to changes in business models. For example, the insurance sector, banking and pension funds are changing.”

“There are all kinds of factors causing things to go faster and I think it is really important for large Canadian firms to be involved in multilateral or international initiatives like the B20. It is also important for us to make it possible for small firms to participate in opportunities (like the Start-up Energy Transition Tech Festival) to be vetted and seriously considered.”

German Leadership

Doors of the Hamburg Messe, where the G20 will meet July 7 & 8, 2017 – by Last Hero via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Bak praised Germany’s Presidency of the G20.

“We have seen German leadership in the energy transition and renewable energy. They also provide leadership in a number of climate related files, whether that’s innovation, or green finance, or carbon pricing.”

The Opportunity

She added some Canadian technology “is the best available and therefore should become the basis of GLOBAL standards. I would be just as worried about our not taking the opportunity to do that than whether there are Canadian firms in the #Get100.”

Top photo credit: Screen shot from  Start Up Energy Transition Tech Page

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