A plan to make Western Canada a global leader in clean energy



What is the biggest challenge for alternative energy? Bringing down its cost. What is the biggest challenge for traditional oil and gas companies? Becoming cleaner.

As business leaders are set to arrive in Vancouver for Globe 2010 this week -- for an opportunity to really think about the business of the environment -- this could be an opportune time to consider a particular Canadian advantage, a chance to marry our clean energy leadership with our conventional energy strength to show the rest of the world it can be done.

We have an unsteady but increasingly clear view of the future: By 2025, clean energy will have become an integral part of the global energy industry, in the process of which someone is destined to make a lot of money. But for this to happen, the price of alternative energy -- such as solar, wind, tidal, biofuels and geothermal -- will need to come down.

At the same time, the oil and gas industry will also need to reinvent itself. Industry leaders have become more focused on sustainability.

Western Canada is well placed to strike a new paradigm, leveraging the best of our 'old traditional' and 'new entrepreneurial' energy resources and knowledge.

New Fortune 500 companies will emerge, becoming global magnets for wealth creation.

Here's Canada's best plan for winning this global race:

  1. Select the strongest team

Canada is already a leader, with established conventional energy strength and many rising clean energy stars. Significant crossover opportunities will abound if we get these players on the same team. As a first step, we should form a combined industry association -- strongly supported by our political leaders.

2. Help shape the rules

Jurisdictions that create the best new rules, regulations and financial support systems for the new energy world will benefit. Our regulations, standards and codes, startup subsidies and other initiatives should be fair, simple to implement, and create an inviting climate for foreign investors.

3. Create sponsorship

We should direct carbon tax revenues to support energy companies (a program that can begin right away in B.C. using incremental revenues from the existing carbon tax).

The investment should go into two funds: one to help pay for innovative technologies to clean up traditional oil and gas practices, another to help customers pay for clean energy products like solar roofs and better insulated houses.

4. Get the best trainers

Technical miracles will be crucial in our race for global clean energy. We need to create a supportive climate for education, training and commercial innovation.

Key factors for success are:

  • Well-funded universities and research laboratories with cutting-edge clean energy programs that inspire young people who are seeking careers under the new energy paradigm.
  • We need to build and attract more venture capital funds with a local presence in Western Canada.

5. Become a fan

A strong local fan base is important. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell are leading the way.

But all of us have to step up. Forward-looking companies, scientists, community leaders, TV celebrities and sports stars should become role models.

Wal van Lierop is president and CEO of Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital in Vancouver, and a member of the B.C. Clean Tech CEO Alliance. Globe 2010 takes place Wednesday through Friday at the Vancouver Convention Centre-East.


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