Canada productive but should do more, experts say
LEADING DESIGNS Demand at home is limited
Canadian companies are in the forefront of new developments in sustainable and energy-efficient technology, experts say, despite limited demand for such products here at home.
“A lot of Canadian innova- tions are at the cutting edge, globally, and are being exported,” said Shawn Dalton, director of the Environment and Sustainable Development Research Centre at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
Michael Carten, whose company produces energy converters that transform solar, wind and fuel-cell energy into electricity, said Canada’s small domestic market compels businessmen with new products to spread the word about them around the world if they hope to succeed.
“There really isn’t a lot of demand for such products in Canada,” said Carten, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Sustainable Energy Technologies, based in Calgary. “We definitely have a much greater demand from other countries, such as Spain. ... Technologies generally grow up with a good domestic market to support (them) but in Canada, we don’t have a coherent industrial strategy. ”
Dalton agreed, and said Canada needs to be more aggressive about supporting innovative technologies and getting them into the marketplace.
Public policy has played a role in keeping sustainability and energy efficiency a focus of national attention.
Canada implemented minimum energy performance standards earlier this year under the Energy Efficiency Act. As a result, Canada became one of the first countries to be able to introduce standards to regulate the amount of standby power consumed by many products – such as computers, battery chargers, CD players and televisions – when they are not in use.
“We want to help Canadian consumers choose energy-efficient products by amending the Energy Efficiency Act,” Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn said in June.
“Modernizing this legislation will not only help combat climate change but also provide real options for reducing the energy consumption of many products that Canadians use every day.”
According to Natural Resources Canada, it is estimated that standby power now accounts for as much as 10 per cent of household electricity consumption in the country.
Some say that while Canada’s efforts are productive, they are still not enough.
Many countries do more in this regard than Canada, said James Meadowcroft, Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustain- able Development at Carleton University in Ottawa. “However, we’ve just passed our first act that mandates the creation of a federal sustainable development strategy which would identify some big goals for the country to pursue in the next five to 10 years. Of course, that’s only a strategy, but it’s the beginning.”
Meadowcroft adds there is international cooperation on the issue taking place between both governments and businesses.
“International cooperation is important for big technology development, but really our problem is getting our own house in order,” he said.