A new report from the Conference Board of Canada says that even though Canada has seen its share of the international clean technology export market decline over the last decade, its existing strengths put the country in a good place to capitalize on the growing transition to a low-carbon economy.
Clean Trade: Canada's Global Opportunities in Climate-Friendly Technologies indicates that Canada punches above its weight in a number of areas including renewable energy, energy efficiency and waste management technologies.
According to the report, Canada is strong in exporting 17 out of 45 climate friendly goods, representing 76% of its climate friendly product exports in 2015. And despite Canada losing overall export market share in clean technology over the last number of years, the country is expanding its reach in 11 of those 17 product categories.
With respect to renewable energy products, Canada is strong in six areas, all which have experienced growth in recent years. This includes towers and clutches for wind turbines, controls and technology related to solar energy and others. The Conference Board says that even with mediocre growth in renewable energy, “Canada has continued to find growth opportunities.”
Digging deeper into the solar arena, Canada has particular strength in solar PV (photovoltaic) controllers. Clean Trade says this product is Canada’s largest export market among the 17 strength areas.
“Indeed, photovoltaic system controllers account for more than 18% of Canadian exports of climate-friendly products. Photovoltaic system controllers are also the fastest-growing, climate-friendly export in the world. The biggest exporters are Germany ($8.5 billion in 2015), China ($5.7 billion), and the U.S. ($5.2 billion). Canada was ranked 15th in the world with $830 million in exports in 2015,” says the report.
A big unanswered question for Canada is how to leverage its existing strengths and develop new ones to capitalize on the growing international climate friendly products market? The report says Canadian firms must become familiar with specific market opportunities and realities. For example, China may represent a massive market for a number of products but there are concerns surrounding intellectual property rights.
One way to take advantage of global markets is to partner with local firms.
“Local companies and large firms may already be familiar with opportunities and regulations. This can be a good way to build a portfolio and experience in exporting climate-friendly technologies,” says Clean Trade.
Governments also have a role to play in encouraging clean technology investments. For example feed-in-tariffs and carbon prices are good at facilitating renewable energy investments. But they have also been shown to encourage overall investment in clean innovation and the commercialization of clean technology products.
“Both government and business can adopt strategies with the same goal: to enhance Canada’s global commerce in climate-friendly technologies. Canadian businesses can play a key role in helping to reduce global GHGs, while also reaping the commercial benefits of selling their climate-friendly technologies globally,” states the report.