Canadian clean-tech companies show their stuff at CEM

Canadian innovation and breakthrough technologies present a glimmer of a green future.


Simon Beller, CFO, left, and Jos Hoetjes, chemical engineer, BC Biocarbon. Image: Nelson Bennett/Business in Vancouver

Last week’s Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver gave Canadian clean-tech companies a chance to show their stuff.

The event, hosted by Natural Resources Canada, is described as “a global forum where major economies and forward leaning countries work together to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.”

Here’s a look at some of the Canadian companies that presented their technologies.

TERRESTRIAL ENERGY: SMALL-SCALE NUCLEAR POWER

Based in Oakville, Ontario, Terrestrial Energy was named one of the top 10 breakthrough technologies in MIT Technology Review, curated by Bill Gates.

It is among a handful of companies developing small-scale molten salt nuclear reactors. Terrestrial’s process has cogeneration capabilities in that it can use the heat from its nuclear power plants to produce hydrogen cheaply, and combine it with carbon to produce low-carbon gasoline.

The company plans to start building its first commercial plant in Ontario in the 2020s. A second plant is planned for the U.S.

Traditional nuclear power plants can cost between $8 billion and $20 billion, but Terrestrial Energy claims it can build a 200-megawatt plant for $1 billion. Molten salt reactors do not have the same dangers of meltdowns that have plagued traditional water-cooler nuclear power plants.

Canadian and American governments have provided 25% of the company’s financing to date, with the rest coming from high-net-worth individuals.

AGORA ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES: CO2-BASED FLOW BATTERY

Spun out of the University of British Columbia, Agora Energy Technologies is a B.C. clean-tech startup that is developing a redox flow battery that uses carbon dioxide, which is then turned into a storage medium.

Flow batteries are believed to be a better storage solution than lithium-ion batteries for intermittent wind and solar power. Large amounts of electricity can be stored in liquid form for much longer periods of time using any number of catalysts – vanadium being the most common. But Agora plans to use captured CO2, which would then be converted into the storage medium, which is proprietary.

“The carbon dioxide enters the battery and the catalyst converts it to a storage medium, and that storage medium is what is used to store the energy,” said Hannah MacDonald, Agora content manager. “So carbon dioxide and electricity go in, the carbon dioxide gets converted and stored.”

MacDonald said the Agora battery system could be used to produce a carbonate product – soda ash – which is used in detergents, glass and other industrial processes. MORE

Airships to ferry goods to Northern Manitoba?

Innovation is going to result in profound changes in the new Green Economy. Airships, for example, could open up Canada’s vast northern territories, dramatically lowering the price of food, medicine, housing,  and essential supplies for development. Imagine a better future!

Airships Are Going to Redefine the Logistics Industry

Northern Manitoba chiefs are hoping an idea to help their communities avoid the high cost of fresh produce will get lift-off next month. Meagan Fiddler reports. 1:51

MKO Grand Chief David Harper said the goal is to make shipping cargo up north more cost-effective.

“There’s no reason that First Nations can’t operate these airships,” he said. “And there’s no reason they can’t build these airships.”

“Instead of sending six trucks up, you could be sending one of these, and your goods are delivered year round,” he said. Harper said climate change is making winter roads unreliable, sometimes open for just a couple of weeks. And he said a permanent road won’t be a reality for a long time.

Barry Prentice said Manitoba spends almost $5,000 per kilometer building some 2,200 kilometers of ice roads every year.

“So it’s about $10 million a year spent on ice roads,” he said. “And at the end of the year, it all melts away, and it’s gone. If we had 10 years of that money, we’d have a whole airship industry started.” MORE

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Airships Are Going to Redefine the Logistics Industry

Self-healing concrete can be used anywhere, lasts longer, is a greener option

Is this a solution for Highway 49?

Created in B.C., self-healing concrete can be used anywhere, lasts longer, is a greener option

The future is coming, and it’s arriving at Chawathil: the First Nation will be the first place in Canada to have a self-healing road.

“Chawathil is a very interesting community, very forward-thinking and modern-thinking,” said Dr. Nemy Banthia, who’s the research chair and University of British Columbia (UBC) professor behind self-healing concrete. “They welcomed us to bring this new technology into their community.

“And it’s very impactful technology,” Banthia continued. The First Nation will be getting a “highly loaded parking lot and an approach road with lots and lots of traffic.” Between the parking lot and the road, Banthia says there will be several hundred square feet of the concrete installed in Chawathil.

The possibilities for this product are nearly endless.

Created in his IC-IMPACTS (India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability) lab, a federal research initiative based at UBC, Banthia says the self-healing road technology is a fibre-reinforced concrete that’s made through combining tire fibres, plant-based cellulose fibres, and a nano-coated manufactured fibre material: “It’s a hybrid system of (recycled and manufactured) products,” the professor explained. MORE

It’s time for nations to unite around an International Green New Deal

“The International Green New Deal changes the frame. Rather than pleading for restraint, it sets out a positive-sum vision of international investment, in which the gains from joining in outweigh those to going it alone.”

Several countries have proposed their own versions of a Green New Deal, but climate change knows no borders. We need a global response

Wind farm at sea<br>GettyImages-1133007846 Wind Farm
The stakes of the international Green New Deal are not merely environmental.’ Photograph: Craig Easton/Getty Images/Cultura RF

In times of crisis and catastrophe, children are often forced to grow up quickly. We are now witnessing this premature call to action on a planetary scale. As the adults in government accelerate their consumption of fossil fuels, children are leading the campaign against our species’ looming extinction. Our survival now depends on the prospects for a global movement to follow their lead and demand an International Green New Deal.

Several countries have proposed their own versions of a Green New Deal. Here in Europe, DiEM25 and our European Spring coalition are campaigning under the banner of a detailed Green New Deal agenda. In the UK, a new campaign is pushing similar legislation with MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis. And in the US, dogged activists in the Sunrise Movement are working with representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to push their proposal to the front of the political agenda.

Unfortunately, climate change knows no borders. The US may be the second-largest polluter in the world, but it makes up less than 15% of global greenhouse emissions. Leading by example is simply not enough.

Instead, we need an International Green New Deal: a pragmatic plan to raise $8tn – 5% of global GDP – each year, coordinate its investment in the transition to renewable energy and commit to providing climate protections on the basis of countries’ needs, rather than their means.

Call it the Organization for Emergency Environmental Cooperation – the namesake of the original OEEC 75 years ago. While many US activists find inspiration in a “second world war-style mobilization”, the International Green New Deal is better modeled by the Marshall plan that followed it. With financial assistance from the US government, 16 countries formed the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), dedicated to rebuilding the infrastructure of a devastated continent and coordinating its supply of energy.

But if the original OEEC entrenched an extractive capitalism at Europe’s core –protecting the steel and coal cartel – the new organization for an International Green New Deal can empower communities around the world in a single transformational project.

Confronting the climate crisis will require more than keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The transnational scope of this mobilization is crucial for three main reasons. MORE

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Economist Mariana Mazzucato explains how rethinking industrial policy could be key to tackling climate change.

Maple Leaf pivots to plant-based proteins with new U.S. factory

Indiana plant will double its production of pea and grain-based protein alternatives


Maple Leaf is investing heavily in plant-based products, including tempeh, franks and other meat alternatives.(Greenleaf)

MIssissauga, Ont-based Maple Leaf Foods is investing in meat alternatives, building the largest plant in North America for plant-based protein.

The $310-million US plant in Shelbyville, Indiana, about 50 km from Indianapolis, will more than double Maple Leaf’s capacity to produce plant-based protein products for the Canadian and U.S. markets.

Construction is expected to start in late spring this year, with production start-up expected in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Demand for meat alternatives growing

The company, once known mainly for its processed meats, estimates sales of plant-based protein in North America topped $1 billion in 2018. In a conference call with investors, CEO Michael McCain said he expects double-digit growth in the segment for the foreseeable future.

“North American consumers are seeking more protein and more protein choices in their diet,” he said. “Plant-based protein is on the cusp of becoming mainstream with incredible growth potential.” MORE

Food companies can make nutrition affordable to low-income consumers with a mix of tech and tradition

Image result for good food is good business

The future of affordable nutrition is the subject of a report released last week from the Institute for the Future and commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Good Food is Good Business” takes a look at forces that will drive opportunities to create more affordable, accessible, appealing and nutritious foods for lower-income consumers during the next decade.

The 59-page report focuses on national and regional food and beverage companies, multinational food and beverage companies, innovators and input suppliers to the industry. Technological approaches such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are addressed, along with biological ones such as cellular agriculture, the microbiome and cultural zones of innovation.

Low- and middle-income countries rarely show up on the radar of large multinational food companies, so innovation, R&D and business development aren’t often looking at affordable nutrition, the report says. “For those few companies who develop nutritious foods for low- and middle-income markets and survive, their impact remains limited and their scale small. Providing healthier, more nutritious and more affordable foods to lower-income consumers is therefore a grand challenge, shouldered mostly by food aid organizations along with some private-sector actors,” it states. MORE

Youth are preparing to lead in an uncertain future

Canadian students take to the streets in Toronto on March 15, 2019 as part of a global student strike to pressure governments to take serious action to address climate change. File photo by Carlos Osorio

The student climate strike on March 15 made it clear that young people have had enough. We are no longer waiting for others to secure our future. Students took to the streets on that day because we have big problems to solve and what we’re doing right now isn’t working. It’s time to be bold and innovative. It’s time to try something new.

By 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we need to be well on our way to a carbon neutral society. Meanwhile artificial intelligence systems, complex global trade networks, and automation are about to completely reshape how we work. The Institute for the Future, a non-profit educational organization, estimates that 85 per cent of the jobs today’s students will be doing in 2030 don’t exist yet. That means we have to solve long-term problems while navigating a fast-changing world.

Eighty-five per cent of the jobs today’s students will be doing in 2030 don’t exist yet. That means we have to solve long-term problems while navigating a fast-changing world.

Youth will bear the brunt of the impacts of these problems and youth will be the leaders who overcome them. Yet our biggest challenge is that we face issues like climate change, inequality, and disruptive new technologies all at once. This means that leaders need to reach across boundaries, understand issues from multiple perspectives, and radically collaborate. They need to be adaptable, knowledgeable, and connected. So equipping young people with the skills they need to lead and innovate is in everyone’s best interest. The Trudeau government’s most recent budget emphasizes the importance of skills development, while the OECD encourages all its members to develop national skills strategies.

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