Does your bank offer ethical investments? Corporate Knights visited branches of the Big Five to find out

Two-thirds of Canadians say they’re interested in responsible investment options, while nearly three out of four believe it’s “the way of the future,” according to a recent survey.

From millennials looking to stash their retirement savings in line with their ethics all the way up the corporate ladder to the world’s largest investment houses vowing to put climate action at the heart of investment decisions, responsible investing is quickly gaining traction.

According to Ipsos polling released by RBC Global Asset Management last month, two-thirds of Canadians surveyed say they’re interested in responsible investment options (or RI, also known as sustainable, socially responsible or ethical investing). Nearly three out of four believe RI is “the way of the future.” But with the deadline for retirement-savings-plan contributions less than two weeks away, it turns out that three of Canada’s “Big Five” banks don’t currently offer any options to meet that demand.

Spotty information

Corporate Knights anonymously visited Toronto branches of the Big Five banks (RBC, BMO, TD Canada Trust, CIBC and Scotiabank) and inquired about ethical investing. While some bank advisers were enthusiastic and fairly well informed, information about responsible investments was often spotty and inconsistent.

Many bank staff weren’t sure whether or not their bank offered ethical investments and what those offerings entailed. Some advisers downright discouraged us from putting our savings into RIs, suggesting they were money-losers, while advisers at other banks gushed about how their responsible funds outperform conventional funds.

Notably, BMO and RBC were the only two banks that had dedicated RI funds. Scotiabank and TD trailed at the back of the pack.

How the banks stack up in ethical investing

Here’s how much the Big Five banks have invested in sustainable and other investments

OVERALL RANK BANK RENEWABLE LOANS ($M) OIL & GAS LOANS AND ACCEPTANCES ($M) SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS INVESTMENT ($M)* HARMFUL INVESTMENTS ($M)**
1 BMO $3,900 $9,168 $17,812 $16,359
2 RBC $2,200 $16,406 $14,690 $8,708
3 CIBC $1,500 $7,439 $3,986 $2,729
4 TD $2,563 $6,579 $9,833 $9,036
5 Scotiabank $0 $14,800 $6,430 $4,489

* Sustainable solution investments includes 512 companies in the Corporate Knights database that earn more than 20% of their revenues from products or services (such as reneable energy, energy efficiency, electric cars, public transit and organic food) that benefit the environment or society according to the Corporate Knights Clean Revenue Taxonomy.

** Harmful investments include 451 companies in thermal coal, weapons, for-profit prisons, as well as companies with severe human rights and environmental violations, and other types of egregious products and misconduct tracked by the Corporate Knights Dark Red Flag Radar.

The Toronto-based Responsible Investment Association (RIA) did its own polling with Ipsos in 2019 and found that while 79 per cent of Canadian respondents would like their financial services provider to inform them about RI options, only 23 per cent have been asked by their banks if they’re interested in RIThat helps explain why only a quarter of Canadians say they already have responsible investments, according to stats from Wealthsimple, BMO and the RIA.

Meanwhile in the U.S., new investments into sustainable funds quadrupled in 2019 compared to 2018, and in Europe investments doubled, according to new Morningstar data.

Regulating green investing

The tricky part for would-be purchasers is figuring out what investments genuinely align with their values. One CIBC branch adviser told Corporate Knights that “all the mutual funds we offer have gone through these ESG (environmental, social and governance) checks.” Ditto for all of RBC’s funds around the globe. That doesn’t mean they screen out any dubious companies or sectors. Part of the problem is there’s no universal standard for how terms like “ESG,” “low carbon” and “fossil-fuel free” are defined or applied, leaving funds vulnerable to “impact washing.”

Many Canadian ethical fund managers choose not to screen out fossil-fuel companies, instead investing in those they consider sector leaders. Which is fine for some responsible investors – if funds are transparent about it. But after the RIA received flak for listing fossil-fuel-free funds in its directory that were later exposed to contain oil and gas companies, the association is now considering creating a certification process for RI funds in Canada.

To counter “impact washing” in Europe, the EU passed a disclosure regulation in December that sets standards for financial product labelling, mandating that financial advisers disclose the sustainability risks of a finance product to investors.

Canada’s federally convened Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance recommended we do something similar here.

How green are the bank’s own investments?

Many climate-conscious investors will also want to know just how their banks are dishing out their own money.

All five banks have signed on to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, promising to fold ESG factors into investment decisions, though research by Corporate Knights has found that while the Big Five invest billions in sustainable-solution companies, they also invest billions in controversial weapons, for-profit prisons and severe environmental violators, as well as a number of other themes that would register as egregious on many responsible investors’ radars (see report card). All five also have loan books bulging with fossil fuels in relation to their renewable energy lending, putting them at odds with global money trends.

In the meantime, the first RRSP deadline (March 2) of the new decade gives Canadians a chance to rethink their finances, knowing there are now at least some options on the shelf that allow them to bank on a sustainable future.

Big Five ethical investing report card

We visited Toronto-area branches of the Big Five banks and asked advisers what ethical or sustainable investment options they offered. Here’s what we found:

Scotiabank

Ethical options: No responsible funds available in branch, though Scotiabank said in a statement that it has “considered” ESG factors in the investment process, and added, “Scotia iTRADE offers sustainable investing tools [online].”

Fossil-fuel-free or climate-conscious funds: No.

Knowledge of adviser: The personal banking adviser was unaware of any sustainable options and returned five minutes later to confirm that no options exist that the bank’s financial advisers were aware of.

Cost of values-aligned portfolio: N/A.

Bank loans and investments (clean vs. dirty): Scotiabank dishes out the second-most oil and gas loans ($14.8 billion), compared to zilch in loans to renewables.

Score: D-

TD Canada Trust

SOURCE

Orsted Among Winners as UK Backs Hydrogen Demos

The U.K. is funding what could become the world’s largest electrolyzer—and one that would be linked to an offshore wind farm.

An Orsted offshore wind farm could power the U.K.'s first green hydrogen project. (Credit: Orsted)

An Orsted offshore wind farm could power the U.K.’s first green hydrogen project. (Credit: Orsted)

The U.K. government is looking to get a leg up on its European rivals with a flurry of new funding for hydrogen projects, including one linked to an Ørsted offshore wind farm.

As part of a £90 million ($116 million) funding round announced this week for early-stage low-carbon projects, £28 million was allocated to five hydrogen supply demos. Another £20 million will go toward hydrogen-based industrial fuel swapping projects, covering the glass, cement and lime sectors as well as a Unilever-backed project focused on consumer goods.

The winners cover a diverse mix of hydrogen applications — from floating wind turbines with attached electrolyzers on-deck to low-carbon hydrogen with carbon capture and storage and the country’s first proposed facility for green hydrogen production.

One of the biggest winners is a proposal led by ITM Power to use power from Ørsted’s Hornsea One offshore wind farm to generate the U.K.’s first green hydrogen using 100 megawatts of electrolyzers. The project received £7.5 million in funding.

Green hydrogen uses renewable power to create H2 via electrolysis. Most hydrogen produced today is made by splitting it from methane gas, generating carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

The ITM/Ørsted project would be the largest electrolyzer in the world, according to Wood Mackenzie senior analyst Ben Gallagher.

“The largest-ever project deployed is 10 megawatts, so it’s a huge uptick in terms of scale. This would be record-breaking by several leaps and bounds,” said Gallagher, who characterized the project as the manifestation of the green hydrogen value proposition.

The current problem with electrolyzers is their tiny capacity, both installed and for manufacturing. Only 252 megawatts of electrolyzers were in operation worldwide between 2010-2019, according to WoodMac. But manufacturing capacity is starting to ramp up, buoyed by a pipeline of announced green hydrogen projects that passed 3.2 gigawatts last year.

ITM Power, a manufacturer, gets the keys to a new factory in the U.K. later this year that will be capable of ramping up to 1 gigawatt per year.

Ørsted, the world’s leading offshore wind developer, said hydrogen could soon achieve dramatic cost reductions. “We’ve seen this happen in offshore wind. With industry and government working together, there has been a rapid deployment and a huge cost reduction. This project aims to do the same with hydrogen,” Anders Christian Nordstrøm, Ørsted’s VP for hydrogen, said in a statement.

Germany, France and Belgium are all investing in hydrogen as efforts to decarbonize industry and heat garner greater attention. Both sectors lag far behind power when it comes to lowering their emissions.

Floating electrolyzers

Another winner in the U.K.’s funding round is the Dolphyn project, led by consultancy Environmental Resources Management, which will pair a floating wind turbine structure with an integrated electrolyzer.

Its £3.1 million grant will contribute to the final design work on a 2-megawatt prototype that it hopes to have in the water in 2023, followed by a 10-megawatt commercial prototype in 2026.

Dolphyn’s plans benefited from input from offshore turbine manufacturer MHI Vestas, the aforementioned ITM Power, and Principle Power, the developer of the floating structure used in Engie and EDF’s WindFloat Atlantic trial.

The Dolphyn floating wind turbine with built-in electroyzer and desalination hardware. (Credit: Environmental Resources Management

The system desalinates seawater prior to electrolysis, powered by the turbine, on-board solar panels and standby power supply when required. Hydrogen can be stored onboard or pumped where it’s needed through a pipeline.

Finding demand

In the long run, the success of hydrogen projects depends on finding a stable and sizable source of demand.

One potential use for green hydrogen is as an additive to existing natural-gas systems, effectively allowing gas companies to continue operating as they currently do while partially decarbonizing. Italy’s Snam is doubling its hydrogen injection trials from a 5 percent to a 10 percent mix.

ITM Power began a trial in January to inject a 20 percent mix of hydrogen into the private natural-gas network of Keele University.

Lorna Archer from the energy futures team at Scottish Gas Networks told a recent industry conference that domestic gas boilers in the U.K. could handle a 20 percent mix without the need for a full refit.

But WoodMac’s Gallagher warns that challenges around leaks and safety mean such a fuel swap isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

“What’s less theoretical is the sort of industrial end users that require hydrogen in their products [that are] looking at displacing carbon-intensive hydrogen with green hydrogen,” he said

SOURCE

Canadian businesses rush to plug a gap in electric-vehicle charging: Don Pittis

There’s money in pumping volts as traditional gas stations face disruption

A car at the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto is refuelled by an Ivy Charging Network station. Like other disruptive technologies, electric charging will challenge the existing industry. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The relatively small number of electric vehicles you see on the road today masks what many experts say is a disruptive revolution coming to the business of refuelling our vehicles.

With some claiming as many as 80 per cent of conventional gas stations could be driven out of business in 15 years, Canadian companies are at the forefront of figuring out how to profit from the coming transformation of the business model for how we get a fill-up.

And as with the effect of previous technological disruptions on such firms as Kodak or former music titan PolyGram, unexpected innovations mean there is no guarantee that established players will retain their dominant position in a market where all the rules have changed.

The increasing number of battery-powered offerings at last week’s Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto and the many more in the pipeline hint at an energy transformation fuelled by climate change and startling advances in electric-vehicle tech, meaning the recharging business is now playing catch-up.

Growing demand

Repeated studies have shown there are not enough chargers even for existing demand, said Colleen Kaiser, who researches the electrification of transport for the Smart Prosperity Institute, a Canadian think-tank studying market-friendly sustainability.

On a life-cycle basis, studies have shown electric vehicles are already cheaper than their internal combustion equivalents, and competition and better technology is beginning to push prices down.

Experts say that will inevitably push EV sales up.

“What we are starting to see is the more progressive oil and gas companies are now looking at themselves as providers of power to fuel transportation,” said Kaiser, pointing to Canadian oilsands giant Suncor, which has already begun to install electric chargers at its Petro-Canada gas stations.

Conventional gas stations may be on the way out once people recharge at home, but the global Canadian company Couche-Tard, which operates under the name Circle K outside Quebec, is a leader in exploring innovative EV strategies. (Don Pittis/CBC)

But as with previous technological disruptions, Kaiser said new growth in the EV-recharging business is not simply a matter of replacing gas pumps with electrical outlets. Perhaps the most significant change in the business model is that the many people who currently go to the service station for a fill-up will be able to recharge at home or at work.

As Kaiser says, if we had gas pumps at our houses, we wouldn’t be using gas stations, either.

Among the many other complications is having enough power in the right locations. A bank of EV chargers in full use demands as much power as an office building, Kaiser said, and that kind of juice might not be easily available — especially in remote areas where chargers are needed.

Even if people switch to EVs as quickly as some forecasts suggest, there will still be decades of demand for conventional fuelling stations, as existing vehicles gradually wear out and are replaced by electrics.

End of the retail fuel era

Research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that the world faces “the end of an era in fuel retail” as gas stations begin to disappear. According to the authors’ calculations, many traditional gas stations simply won’t make enough money.

“In a market environment in which electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous vehicles and new mobility models take off rapidly, up to 80 per cent of the fuel-retail network as currently constituted may be unprofitable in about 15 years,” reads the report.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is suffering. Paradoxically, even as existing service stations face a future profit challenge, new entrants are rushing to figure out ways to make money from a shortage of electric-charging points.

Analysis of Kodak’s collapse after the arrival of digital photography helps show why business disruption by technological change can be perplexing.

For instance, Kodak did not stubbornly refuse to make digital cameras. Instead, as digital imaging took off, the advantages the company had created with massive investments in the world’s best film technology suddenly became a liability, and nimble specialists in electronics and software crowded into the digital photography space.

Experts now say something similar has happened in the automotive business, as electric engines wipe out years of competitive advantage by German carmakers in sophisticated internal combustion mechanics.

A recently installed FLO fast charger in Calgary, operated by Canadian company AddÉnergie. The company says it can’t keep up with demand. (Mike Symington/CBC)

 

Whatever the future of conventional gas stations, Travis Allan, vice-president and general counsel at the EV-charging system FLO, said that his company’s system of electric fast chargers is an expanding business.

FLO, which just announced a deal to install charging points at Canadian Tire stations across the country, is owned by the award-winning Quebec-based startup AddÉnergie.

As well as building out a charging network, the 10-year-old privately held firm — listed in one business directory as an “application software” company — makes charging hardware for home and commercial use. It is also an expert in the software needed to regulate the electricity flow and bill customers. And the company is expanding its business into the U.S., including through a recent deal with electricity giant Consolidated Edison.

While Allan agrees that EV owners will charge at home when they can, he said there are many reasons besides long journeys why people will want access to public chargers.

In urban cores with street parking, such as New York and Montreal, for example, there’s a need for street-level charging. Car-share vehicles, ride-hailing companies, plus the eventual arrival of self-driving vehicles will also contribute to commercial charger demand.

The Norway experience

There are reports that the Quebec-based convenience store and gas station company Couche-Tard, which operates under the brand name Circle K around the world, is using its subsidiary in Norway to lead the way in global research on how to continue to profit in the new world of EV charging.

Even at existing gas stations, studies show the associated convenience stores are a bigger source of profit than fuel sales. Couche-Tard is exploring the best way to offer services to a captive audience of customers waiting for their vehicles to charge.

Another new entry into the business is the Ontario-based Ivy Charging Network, currently installing 163 chargers at more than 70 locations across the province. A private business owned jointly by Ontario Power Generation and electricity distributor Hydro One, Ivy will effectively be drumming up business for its parent companies by making it easier to use electric vehicles, said Ivy co-president Theresa Dekker.

“Ontario’s electricity system is very, very clean, and so it just makes sense to use our clean electricity in the province to help support increased adoption of electric vehicles and increase use of the product,” said Dekker.

As with other electrical utilities across Canada and around the world, the business urge to sell more product means there will be market pressure to find ways to keep pumping volts — even if conventional gas stations eventually disappear altogether. SOURCE

Fleets vow to invest in electric conversion by 2030 – all they need now are suppliers

 

More than 75 per cent of worldwide fleets surveyed who’ve vowed to electrify their vehicles in the next nine years have yet to find suitable product – the time is ripe for manufacturers to fill this lucrative gap.

ADM Aéroports de Montréal Ecotuned Ford F-150 electric truck

ADM Aéroports de Montréal Ecotuned Ford F-150 electric truck

Three Canadian companies leading the way in fleet electrification are proving the market for heavy electric vehicle manufacturers is growing and financially viable.

In 2019 ADM Aéroports de Montréal, Taxelco and Ontario Power Generation signed onto the EV100 pledge, spearheaded by The Climate Group, setting ambitious goals for fleet electrification – over 2,100 vehicles between the three companies – by 2030.

“We are going to lead by example… [Electrifying] fleet vehicles is a big opportunity” Philippe Stas, Director, Strategic Sourcing, Aéroports de Montreal

“It’s a commitment from our upper management that we need to reduce greenhouse gases so there is a will to pay a reasonable premium to convert from tradition combustion type vehicles to electric vehicles.”

Transit emissions high

Transit accounts for nearly a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to government data.

For an enterprising Canadian OEM this growing commercial appetite for electric fleet solutions presents a lucrative opportunity in a market with very few players.

ADM’s fleet encompasses 79 vehicles that range from four-seater hatchbacks to heavy equipment trucks servicing planes and runways.

ADM already has 12 Nissan Leafs, pluggable hybrids and electric pickup trucks equalling 15 per cent fleet electrification.

ADM (Aéroports de Montréal) Ecotuned Ford F-150 electric truck on display. Photo: ADM

The electric pickups are courtesy of Ecotuned, a company that specializes in converting diesel Ford F150s to battery powered. Ecotuned is planning on expanding its conversion operations to include Ford 250 and 350 series and, eventually, will branch into other makes.

The range of electric infrastructure needs for ADM presents unique challenges, but also a great opportunity in the manufacturing world.

“EV100 recognizes the challenge and what they are asking us to do is electrify 100 per cent of our light vehicle fleet by 2030. For heavy vehicles they are asking us to electrify 50 per cent of the fleet because they recognize there is a bigger challenge there and some products are being developed but are not available,” says Stas.

A lion’s share

One company that is nearly singlehandedly shouldering the demand for electric heavy machinery is a near neighbour to ADM: Quebec-based Lion Electric Co., Canada’s only 100 per cent purpose-built medium to heavy electric vehicle OEM.

Being first out of the gate landed Lion partnership opportunities, which have yielded invaluable product feedback and unique technological advances. It’s also allowing them to grab the largest market share for the heavy electric vehicle industry in Canada – virtually unchallenged.

“We have a head start. Our biggest competition right now comes from China. [Other major OEMs] will have to invest millions of dollars to get where we are at,” Patrick Gervais, vice president of marketing and communications, tells Electric Autonomy.

“When we get into commercial trucks the return on investment is way faster because you do a lot of mileage. The more you roll the more you save”  – Patrick Gervais, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Lion Electric Co.

Lion already boasts an all electric bus, mini bus, shuttle – including a customized version for ADM that includes screens to show flight information to riders – and a Class 8 truck.

They are planning on adding five additional models in the near-term, including: a bucket truck, a roll off, a garbage truck, a firetruck and a reformation truck.

“When we get into commercial trucks the return on investment is way faster because you do a lot of mileage. The more you roll the more you save,” says Gervais.

Canadian National, the country’s only transcontinental rail company, has already ordered eight Lion trucks for their fleet. Those will “remove 100 tons of GHG from the road annually,” according to the company, which expects the trucks to deploy in Summer, 2020.

Getting off the ground

For companies like ADM, electric trucks will be an important component of an airport fleet. Dozens of retail partners rely on them to transport goods in and out and smaller specialized work trucks service airport infrastructures and planes. ADM says they are committed to working with all their partners to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles, creating a ripple effect through the airport community.

But transitioning the machinery used to keep planes taking off and landing safely is a more complex undertaking.

“The heavy machinery is difficult to transition. It takes a lot of battery power to run a thousand horsepower snowblower,” says Claude Hurtubise, business partner with strategic procurement at ADM, tells Electric Autonomy.

“In terms of heavy machinery we are not there yet, but we are working with manufacturers in their product development roadmap.”

ADM, like many other electric-transitioning companies, has employed some work arounds ranging from buying hybrid in lieu of all-electric, purchasing vehicles with more efficient engines to retrofitting existing diesel vehicles to electric where they can. Vehicles being replaced in ADM’s fleet in 2020 will produce 51% fewer greenhouse emissions than their predecessors.

“We think if there is a high volume of purchases and engagement from the government and private companies in the next five years that electric heavy duty transportation will be the same price as diesel”

– Patrick Gervais, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Lion Electric Co.

But the commercial demand for an all-electric runway sweeper, for instance, remains small meaning supply is scarce and costs are high.

On the manufacturing side, Lion is confident they will be able to deliver hyper specialized machinery as part of their product lineup and that, with the right policy and legislative supports, the costs could be reigned in and achieving a truly zero emissions fleet for a partner like ADM would be realistic.

“We think if there is a high volume of purchases and engagement from the government and private companies in the next five years that electric heavy duty transportation will be the same price as diesel,” says Gervais.

“One of the problems we face is that people think electric vehicles are in five years. It’s happening now. It’s not the project of the future.” MORE

Strategy aims to have 80 per cent of Windsor homes retrofitted for energy-efficiency by 2041

Only 5 per cent of homeowners are taking advantage of special grants for retrofitting

Karina Richters says the Deep Energy Retrofit Program will assist homeowners who don’t have the capital to afford energy-efficient windows and doors on their own. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

With three months having passed since Windsor council declared a “climate emergency,” the question now is — what’s the city going to do about it?

On Wednesday, the city’s Environment, Transportation and Public Safety Standing Committee examined multiple reports, looking at strategies to find the answer to that question.

One outlined a strategy to reduce Windsor’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent from 2014 levels over the next two decades. The second looked at renovating homes throughout Windsor to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

Karina Richters, the city’s supervisor for environmental sustainability and climate change, said home retrofits are a key part of the plan, since the average Windsor home was built in 1955, about 20 years before things such as insulation were required.

“So we know that we have an inefficient building stock, especially in those homes that haven’t had any sort of retrofit,” she said, adding many homeowners in Windsor don’t have the capital to do a massive retrofit since “windows and doors are pretty expensive.”

Fabio Costante says the retrofit program would save money for both the city and homeowners in the long run.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

 

Another reason more homeowners haven’t taken advantage of grants and incentives to make their properties more energy-efficient, Richters said, is that they don’t know if they will remain in their homes long enough to see a return on that investment.

“So one of the things we’re looking at is trying to set up a program that would eliminate those two hurdles to get people to actually be able to retrofit their home.”

Called the Deep Energy Retrofit Program, the strategy would see the city create an entity to administer the program. It would have standardized retrofit packages, which could reduce costs through volume pricing for materials and labour productivity.

It also means contractors would not need to prepare customized quotes. Property owners could then pay for the upgrades through a local improvement charge on their taxes.

“It’s not a tax increase, but it will be attached to the property much like a tax is,” standing committee member Fabio Costante said. “If you bought into this program and you were to sell your property, whatever is left owing on the retrofit will be the obligation of the purchaser of the property — much like property taxes would be.”

Costante added a number of questions were directed to Richters during Wednesday’s meeting about the city’s ability to create a separate entity which would operate this retrofit program.

“There were some questions on risk to the corporation of the City of Windsor and what kind of financial commitments the city would have to make,” said Costante.

According to Costante, only five per cent of homeowners in Windsor take advantage of special grants for retrofitting. The Deep Energy Retrofit Program would aim to have 80 per cent of city homes retrofitted by 2041. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

 

“But ultimately, it was seen as a net positive and the rewards that could come from it could in fact outweigh the risks involved.”

Richters believes if about 80 per cent of all homes were retrofitted, that would reduce about 235,000 tons in greenhouse gas emissions every year.

According to Costante, only five per cent of homeowners in Windsor are currently “taking advantage of special grants for retrofitting.” The Deep Energy program calls for 80 per cent of homes to be retrofitted by 2041.

“When we look at saving on energy as individual homeowners and and as a community as a whole, this is one of those programs that could really move the needle,” said Costante.

One of Costante’s most emphatic points during Wednesday’s meeting, he said, is that the program would serve not just as a means to reduce the amount of energy the city uses — but that it also makes economic sense as well.

City of Windsor councillors declared a climate change emergency on Nov. 18, 2019, joining over 400 communities across Canada. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

 

“The payback that homeowners will receive and the cost savings that they’ll receive within a shorter period of time than originally anticipated is really important. Over the long run, they’re going to see great savings,” said Costante.

“The community as a whole is going to be producing less energy, which is great for the environment. So it’s a really good win on both sides, the environment and the economy.”

Coun. Kieran McKenzie, who also sits on the committee, says it’s the city’s moral duty to help people cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from their homes.

“I truly believe that we can’t afford to not make the investments that are being proposed here, and what we see in front of us is a road map to help us get to where we, as a community, need to be,” McKenzie said.

Richters is also recommending the city begin considering climate change risks in all future reports presented to council. She said the aim is to “bring an awareness” to the city of possible climate risks.

“We want people to consider, for example, if we’re building something, is it going to last the climate future?” she said.

“The marina, it was under water this year. So if we’re building another marina, let’s consider what those water levels are going to be like. Giving it a little bit of forethought, maybe we can reduce those risks in the future.”

Following a unanimous vote from all five committee members, the retrofit program will be presented to council in three weeks for final approval. Even if this strategy is completely successful, there would still be a 29 per cent gap to reach the city’s target, but Richters says she’s not worried about that.

“We need to start where we can and make headway, and I think once the public sees that it’s not necessary a change of the way they live, but just a rethought, I think that we’ll get more buy-in, more acceptance,”

Richters also expects technology to come along that will make greater gains.

“For electric cars, we have a target now 10 per cent, but that could easily go up to 30, 40, if we start getting trucks and SUVs on the road that are EV.”

SOURCE

 

Fleets vow to invest in electric conversion by 2030 – all they need now are suppliers

Asia has had a good head start, but the EU is determined to catch up.

Contemporary Amperex Technology expanding its factory in Arnstadt, Germany, on Oct. 29, 2019.  

Contemporary Amperex Technology expanding its factory in Arnstadt, Germany, on Oct. 29, 2019.   Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Outside the German town of Arnstadt, workers for China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) are hustling to build Europe’s biggest electric-car battery plant.

The  site, which covers an area equivalent to about 100 football fields, previously housed one of the continent’s largest solar-panel factories. During a visit in October, wooden crates filled with surplus equipment were stacked up outside the metal-clad structure to make way for car-battery-making equipment. Roaring bulldozers swarmed a nearby lot to prep for construction of a new building.

VThe $2 billion project—one of about a half dozen battery factories under construction in Germany alone—worries European policymakers, who are desperate to ensure their auto industry doesn’t lose competitiveness in the transition to electric vehicles. EV sales in Europe are expected to jump to 7.7 million in 2030 from just under half a million in 2019, according to forecasts from BloombergNEF. Those vehicles will mainly be powered by batteries from Asian manufacturers like CATL, unless European companies fight back and build a local supply chain.

EVs and clean transportation are at the heart of the European Union’s Green Deal, a more than €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) European Commission policy initiative aimed at making the EU carbon neutral by 2050. The plan includes replacing large power plants with smaller, more local, renewable energy sources while eliminating combustion engines in buses, cars, and trucks. After betting on dirty diesel for too long, European politicians and the heads of Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW are vowing to build a greener supply chain for all of those vehicles.

relates to Europe Floors It in the Race to Dominate Car Batteries
The Contemporary Amperex Technology factory in Arnstadt.
Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
“If we let China own the battery, then we lose out on the centerpiece of electric cars,” says German Deputy Economy Minister Thomas Bareiss. “I’m not sure that’s the best approach for our auto industry.”

Europe has only a patchwork of small battery players. The biggest chunk of the value of a European-made electric car belongs to Asia—China, Korea, and Japan account for more than 80% of the world’s EV battery production, and companies such as CATL, LG Chem, and Samsung SDI control Europe’s biggest battery factories.

Chinese Dominance

To change that, the European Commission set up the Battery Alliance initiative. In December it approved €3.2 billion in aid for projects approved or currently under way at 17 companies, including BASF, BMW, and Fortum. The measure is meant to encourage greater investment in factories by these and other European companies.

National governments are also committing large sums to battery efforts, especially in Germany. In early February its economy minister, Peter Altmaier, announced a €5 billion project for battery cells in Germany and France. Altmaier has been a leading proponent of developing a local battery sector. The goal, as he sees it, is to build “the best and most sustainable batteries in Germany and Europe.” There is no other option, he has said, if its carmakers are to succeed.

Elon Musk Announces Tesla Gigafactory To Be Built Near Berlin
A Tesla Model 3 near the proposed Tesla Gigafactory site in Gruenheide, Germany.  Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

European players, including Belgian materials technology company Umicore N.V. and German chemical company BASF SE, make battery materials from catalysts to cathodes. But there is little mining of key ingredients like lithium, and no capacity to turn those resources into high quality vehicle batteries. A desire to bring  lithium and other materials closer to the production line is partly driving the efforts. “Lithium hydroxide doesn’t travel well,” say Andreas Scherer of AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group NV. “It doesn’t like to sit in a bag in the belly of a ship for six weeks—that’s bad for quality.”

Stringent environmental rules and community opposition to more mines could slow the momentum. Land owners and environmental groups fear the resulting emissions and pollution. Finland’s Keliber Oy in November postponed its planned initial public offering and the construction of a lithium mine on appeals against its environmental permit.

relates to Europe Floors It in the Race to Dominate Car Batteries
The abandoned test tunnel in Wolfsberg, Austria. Source: European Lithium

“We won’t be able to produce the absolute cheapest material. It is clearly a commodity mined in Europe, according to European laws and environmental standards,” Wanke says. “It must be seen as a unique product, contributing to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in Europe.”

The Wolfsberg project is traditional hard-rock mining, with the ensuing environmental consequences. Another startup, or junior, miner, Vulcan Energy Resources Ltd., claims it will produce the material with no CO₂ emissions by adding lithium-extraction facilities to existing geothermal power plants feeding on underground reservoirs in southern Germany. The method is similar to what Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is researching in California’s Salton Sea. “By 2028, forecasters see Europe alone needing more lithium than is being produced in the entire world today,” says Vulcan Energy’s managing director, Francis Wedin.

Still, the efforts now could be too little, too late. “European manufacturers have dragged their feet,” says Jose Lazuen, senior automotive practice analyst at Roskill. “Asian producers started taking positions in Europe two or three years ago, because they knew Europeans would need batteries.”

Electric-car Boom

 

While others are talking, the Chinese are busy building out capacity in Arnstadt for what’s shaping up to be another clean energy fight. The battleground is a former solar panel factory where two previous German owners failed to compete against low-price competition from China. As Germany’s deputy economy minister, Bareiss, says, “It’s about staying in the game and playing a role in a critical technology.” SOURCE

Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz: Western Canada’s great energy story is being written in B.C.

Aerial photo of the Tsilhqot’in solar farm, a 1.25-megawatt independent power project owned by the First Nation, located 80 km west of Williams Lake. PNG

If you’ve heard the terms energy and Western Canada in the same breath of late, odds are the story was about fossil fuels. Maybe it was about job losses, the price of oil, or a pipeline.

It’s a phenomenon British Columbians know well: In our national conversations, B.C.’s economy is overshadowed by Alberta’s. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy.

But what is most remarkable is what’s lost in this — the fact that B.C. has an amazing story to tell. More specifically, an amazing clean energy story.

World markets are undergoing one of the greatest transformations of all time, shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy. As Mad Money’s Jim Cramer recently put it, fossil fuels are the new tobacco. A week earlier, Tesla had skyrocketed to become the second most valuable car company in the world. (Cramer has also changed his tune on Tesla — he’s now a fan.)

And where is B.C. positioned in this changing world?

In a winning position.

Just last month, the Global Cleantech 100 announced its annual list of the most promising cleantech companies in the world. Canada had an impressive showing: 12 companies on the list of 100, second only to the U.S. Half of those companies were from B.C. — a province with 13 per cent of Canada’s total population was home to 50 per cent of its winners on the list.

That’s no anomaly. Year after year, B.C. dominates the list.

After all, this is the province that is home to Burnaby-based General Fusion, a leader in the race to fusion energy (one backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos). General Fusion just scored a whopping $65 million in new funding from a global investment company.

This is the province that is home to Richmond-based Corvus Energy, a leader in supplying electric ferries with batteries and charging technology. Not only is B.C. Ferries a client, Corvus’s tech has made its way into Ontario and Europe.

This is the province that is home to Ballard Power, a leader in zero-emission fuel cells. Many British Columbians know that Ballard has had a long and rocky road, but its stock price has roughly tripled over the last year, thanks in part to China’s appetite for electric vehicle tech.

This is the province that’s home to Penticton-based Structurlam, whose engineered mass timber will hold up Walmart’s new headquarters in Arkansas. Structurlam is North America’s leading mass timber maker, and B.C. is a leader in building taller, energy-saving wood towers. The province sees engineered wood as a way to boost B.C.’s forestry sector, increasing its value as a solution to limited supply. Last year, B.C. became the first province in Canada to allow mass timber towers up to 12 storeys.

And forestry isn’t the only natural resource benefiting from the energy transition. It takes metals and minerals to build wind turbines and electric cars. B.C. is not only a global mining hub, it’s home to 14 of the 19 metals and minerals needed to make a solar panel.

B.C. is also the only province in Canada where those electric cars have reached double-digit sales: 10 per cent of all car sales as of last fall — all powered by the province’s almost entirely renewable electric grid.

Indeed, B.C. has a long history of playing it clean, having introduced North America’s first price on pollution over a decade ago — a policy that quietly helped shift its economy to the cleaner one it has today, and the even cleaner one it will have tomorrow.

As of 2017, 32,000 British Columbians were employed in the clean energy sector, and that number doesn’t include the many industries benefiting from it. Better news still, the sector is rapidly growing and poised for continued success.

You want a great energy story about Western Canada?

Take a look at B.C.

SOURCE

In Alberta, abandoned oil wells are being transformed into solar energy sites

If all goes to plan, the pilot will expand across the Municipal District of Taber, home to 3,000 inactive oil and gas wells.

A lumpy, tarry plot of land once home to an oil well in a Southern Alberta field could soon start a new life as a solar installation, feeding power back into the grid near the small town of Taber.

It’s a pilot project that would address the growing problem of abandoned oil and gas wells in the region by converting them to solar installations. The proposal has already received support from the local municipal district and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC), a partnership between the province and Alberta’s municipalities associations.

If all goes to plan, the pilot will expand across the Municipal District of Taber, home to 3,000 inactive oil and gas wells. The Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, a non-profit that advocates for accurate and transparent data on the province’s oil and gas liabilities, puts the cost of cleaning up those wells at close to $251-million.

Merrill Harris, the reeve of the Municipal District of Taber, lives just south of the proposed pilot site.

The oil company that owns the well has tried to return the land to its original state for as long as Mr. Harris can remember. But, “It’s a nasty old site that they can’t get cleaned up,” he told The Globe and Mail.

The company behind the conversion to solar is RenuWell. Around 50 people descended on a Taber hotel last week to hear an update from project lead Keith Hirsche.

They were interested landowners, officials from local irrigation districts and people who came from the renewable, oil and gas and utilities sectors. Other project partners scattered around the room included representatives from Medicine Hat College and from a non-profit called Iron & Earth, a project led by oil sands workers to help tradespeople transfer their skills to the renewables sphere.

Flicking through photos of inactive wells across the region, the municipality’s director of lands and leases Brian Peers spoke of fire hazards and crop losses from weeds spreading off oil and gas sites.

“Even if [oil and gas companies] are paying the rents, if wells have lived their functional life, we still want them to go. There’s no point in hanging onto something that’s never going to produce,” he said.

“We’re looking for a pragmatic solution to help us here in the [Municipal District] of Taber to address these issues, and that’s where RenuWell comes in.”

Mr. Harris and Mr. Peers said the plan has many potential positives. For starters, landowners being stiffed payments for the oil and gas wells on their properties have a chance to recoup some cash through a small solar installation. The switch to solar could also create jobs in the region and see the municipality rebuild its coffers, depleted after some energy companies stopped paying millions of dollars in property taxes.

Councillors quickly jumped on the idea when Mr. Hirsche approached them in December, 2018, and secured $250,000 through the MCCAC community generation capacity building program.

The program, supported by municipalities and Alberta’s now-defunct consumer carbon tax, provided funding for 12 projects exploring community-based renewable power generation facilities. Nine of those were solar projects spanning Alberta’s Sun Belt – the southern region of the province, which, according to Environment Canada data, is one of the sunniest places in Canada.

The grant moved the Taber project along and helped administration get answers on renewable power taxation policy as more farmers pursue solar options to power irrigation and other equipment in the summer.

RenuWell and the municipal district are still waiting to hear how much power companies will charge them to link the first solar panels into the grid for the pilot project, but emergency response templates are ready, taxation policies have been sorted out and a municipal online portal to let landowners apply to be part of the program is ready to go live.

“We see a lot of potential benefits for the [municipal district] if this takes off in terms of being able to have another purpose for these wells, which are currently sitting there and not generating anything for any public good,” Mr. Hirsche told the meeting last week.

He thinks it could also position Taber – which years ago transitioned from coal to oil and gas – as a leader in renewable energy. Other municipalities have already registered their interest, he said, “and if we expend this into these areas, which are very good solar areas, you can see there’s a tremendous opportunity for development in the province as a whole.”

Mr. Harris said while many of his constituents aren’t over the moon about massive solar projects that sprawl over thousands of acres of grass and farmland, they’re not against using land already disturbed by oil and gas wells.

“We all see that the oil fields around here are mature. We haven’t seen oil rigs drilling around here very much. There was a little bit early this winter, but nothing like in the early 2000s when you could see four or five drilling rigs out your window every day,” he said.

“The infrastructure is there, the road into the lease is there, the electrical poles are all still there, so why not turn it into something else and use it for something beneficial?” SOURCE

Canada and BC violate UN “injunction” while lawful protesters arrested and threatened with armed force | Press release

Comply with international law obligations says LRWC

“Those of us who practice law in safe environments such as Canada owe a duty to those who risk not only their freedom but also their lives in order to protect their clients’ rights.” Gail Davidson, LRWC Founder

12 February 2020 – While peaceful protesters are arrested from coast to coast, Canada’s Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau calls the blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en land rights defenders illegal, citing the Railway Safety Act. He fails to mention that actions of the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the use and threatened use of force by the RCMP are themselves in violation of Canada’s binding international law obligations and therefore ”illegal.” The protesters, on the other hand, are exercising their legal rights to peacefully and strongly object to serious violations of the rights of  the Wet’suwet’en.

On 13 December 2019 a United Nations (UN) treaty monitoring body called on Canada to “halt construction…of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands of the Wet’suwet’en people,” “immediately cease forced eviction of…Wet’suwet’en peoples,” “guarantee that no force will be used against…Wet’suwet’en,” and ensure that “the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands.” The UN body also called on Canada (which includes BC) to “prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the [RCMP] against indigenous peoples.”

After years of Canada’s failure to comply with recommendations of the UN Committee to End Racial Discrimination regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in BC, the Committee issued its December decision urging Canada to incorporate free, prior and informed consent into domestic legislation and seek technical advice from the UN.

Instead, Canada, while seeking a seat on the UN Security Council, is ignoring this urgent UN decision and is again directing and allowing the use of force to seize unceded traditional lands, evict Indigenous people from their lands, and deprive protesters and land defenders of their fundamental rights to liberty and to engage in peaceful protests.

Protesters across Canada are objecting to the repetition of the original colonial seizures of Indigenous lands and the accompanying trampling of indigenous people’s inherent rights to liberty, livelihood, and dignity. The grave consequences of this historic land grabbing and associated injustices persist to this day.

Now, in 2020, Canada and BC cite “the rule of law” as supporting enforcement of laws and decisions that purport to override international laws that protect the rights of both Indigenous Peoples and protesters. These international human rights laws have been binding on Canada and BC for more than half a century.

The RCMP arrests protesters and deprives them of their liberty for alleged violations of a civil injunction of the BC Supreme Court in favour of a corporation while Canada and BC violate the UN ”injunction” with impunity. These actions by Canada, BC and the RCMP are contrary to the rule of law upon which the protesters and land defenders insist. SOURCE

 

 

 

Teck withdraws application for $20B Frontier oilsands mine

Announcement came hours after Alberta said it struck deal with First Nations on project

Teck Resources’ zinc and lead smelting and refining complex is pictured in Trail, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd., has withdrawn its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta, citing the ongoing debate over climate policy in Canada.

The federal government was slated to make a decision this week on whether to approve the $20.6-billion, 260,000-barrel-per-day Frontier.

Sources close to the project confirmed to CBC News the application was withdrawn.

The company said it will take a $1.13-billion writedown on the project, which it said would have created 7,000 construction jobs, 2,500 operating jobs, and brought in more than $70 billion in government revenue.

“We are disappointed to have arrived at this point,” CEO and president Don Lindsay wrote in a letter addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, posted to the company’s website Sunday evening.

“Teck put forward a socially and environmentally responsible project that was industry leading and had the potential to create significant economic benefits for Canadians.”

Lindsay wrote that customers want policies that reconcile resource development and climate change — something he said the region has yet to achieve, but he did not clarify if the region he was referring to was Alberta or Canada.

“Unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project,” he wrote.

Cabinet was to decide this week

But Lindsay stressed the company isn’t shying away from controversy.

“The nature of our business dictates that a vocal minority will almost inevitably oppose specific developments. We are prepared to face that sort of opposition,” he wrote.

Following Teck’s announcement, Wilkinson and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan confirmed in a statement that cabinet will no longer be making a decision on the project.

“As Teck has rightly pointed out, and as many in the industry know, global investors and consumers are increasingly looking for the cleanest products available and sustainable resource development,” the statement read.

Fourteen First Nations and Metis communities signed participation agreements with the company on the mine, and the project was awaiting approval from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which had been expected by the end of the month.

Cabinet was expected to discuss the project at its meeting on Tuesday. It had until the end of the week to make a decision, though it could have decided to push that deadline back.

Wilkinson has been signalling for weeks that cabinet’s discussion would include the fact that Alberta has not set specific greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and in recent days specifically asked the Alberta government to enforce its cap on emissions from the oilsands.

Teck’s Frontier oilsands project was planned for northern Alberta. The company pulled its application for the project on Sunday. (CBC News)

Ottawa ‘let us down,’ says Kenney

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney described Teck’s announcement as a grave disappointment for Albertans, but said it didn’t come as a surprise.

“It is what happens when governments lack the courage to defend the interests of Canadians in the face of a militant minority,” Kenney said in an emailed statement, pointing to what he described as weeks of federal indecision on blockades in solidarity with those opposed to a natural gas pipeline proposed by Coastal GasLink in northern B.C.

The premier wrote that the province agreed to federal requests and conditions for approving the project.

“The factors that led to the today’s decision further weaken national unity.… We did our part, but the federal government’s inability to convey a clear or unified position let us, and Teck, down,” Kenney said.

Pressure still on Liberals, says political scientist

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau spoke with Kenney Sunday evening to discuss Teck’s decision, and the ongoing railway blockades.

“The Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to working with Alberta and the resource sector to keep creating good jobs and to ensure clean, sustainable growth for Canadians,” the statement said.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said Teck’s decision to pull the application won’t relieve pressure on the Liberal government from critics.

He said even though Teck’s letter did not lay blame on the prime minister, he anticipates it will be interpreted that way by his political opponents as part of the “anti-Trudeau … anti-Liberal discussion.”

“This will just be rolled in as part of that narrative,” Bratt said.

Sunday’s announcement came just hours after the Alberta government announced it had struck deals with two First Nations over the proposed project, which would have been located 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

The province said the agreements with the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations addressed bison and caribou habitats and protected Wood Buffalo National Park.

Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis, one of 14 First Nations and Métis communities in favour of the project, said the withdrawal is a “black eye” for Canada.

But Bill Loutitt, CEO of McMurray Métis, said while his community supported the application, the decision to withdraw was the correct one.

“We know Teck as a progressive company and supporter of the Indigenous communities in Wood Buffalo, but tonight’s statement clearly shows that Teck acted in the best interests of Canadians, as they always have,” he said.

Project’s economic viability questioned

In July 2019, a joint federal-provincial review panel recommended the mine be approved, saying the economic benefits outweighed what it described as significant adverse environmental impacts.

However, a January report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis made the case that Teck’s application showed a “reckless disregard for the facts regarding oil prices in Canada.”

The joint-review panel relied on a long-term oil price projection of more than $95 US per barrel provided by Teck, the IEEFA wrote, about $40 US higher than current prices and around $20 US higher than other forecasts.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province had agreed to federal requests and conditions for approving the project. (Mike Symington/CBC)

 

On Friday, Teck released disappointing fourth quarter results, saying global economic uncertainty negatively impacted commodity prices.

The project was also expected to produce about four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year over its 40 year lifespan, and disturb 292 square kilometres of pristine wetlands and boreal forest — although that whole area wouldn’t be mined at once.

Greenpeace applauds decision

“The promise of Canada’s potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development,” Lindsay wrote. “Without clarity on this critical question, the situation that has faced Frontier will be faced by future projects and it will be very difficult to attract future investment, either domestic or foreign.”

Energy consultant Greg Stringham, who has worked for the industry, government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said tight economics and increasing risks put Teck at the centre of debate around energy projects.

“And they’re going, well … do they want to be the straw that breaks the policy camel’s back?” he said in an interview.

Keith Stewart, senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada, said he was surprised by Teck’s decision to withdraw the project, but believes it is the right one.

“This project never made economic sense; it didn’t make climate sense; it wasn’t really going to happen,” Stewart told CBC News.

“This was a project that might have made sense 10 years ago. It certainly doesn’t today,” he said.

Read Teck’s letter to the environment minister below: 

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