Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC)

Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC)

Market Transformation Initiative



 Financial assistance programs are deployed by utilities and governments to help grow a renewable energy industry or increase energy efficiency. These programs are justified by a variety of economic and performance criterias with the objective of transforming markets. They are generally meant to reduce the energy bill of the customers while providing some form of economic or social value to energy distributors and governments.

Despite efforts to run those programs as smoothly as possible, it takes no effort to document horror stories of renewable energy technologies / energy efficiency customers being fooled by unscrupulous firms and serious companies being forced into bankruptcies because of aggressive marketing campaigns by competitors more interested in selling subsidies than selling quality and reliable work.

This phenomenon happened in many European countries during the 1970s. Unfortunately, no lessons were learned and it happened again in the 1980s. Every time subsidies were available, it seemed that the geoexchange industry would live a golden age. Every time subsidies disappeared, so did dozens of fly-by-night unqualified companies that left behind hundreds of poor installations. Every time this happens, a handful of serious companies pick up the pieces and keep the industry alive until the next subsidy round. It happened in Canada in the early 1990s. And it has happened in the United States as well. Over the years, these subsidy programs have not been tightly connected to the availability of qualified workforces and reputable firms / companies.

To help address these concerns, the CGC has developed and implemented a Global Quality GeoExchange Program®[1]. The goal of the CGC Global Quality GeoExchange Program® is to grow the industry in a professional and sustainable manner.

Raising the bar – A 4 year multi-stakeholders national effort 

The lack of properly trained experts, both in design and installation, has long been a problem for the consistent delivery of quality geoexchange systems. In addition, the lack of appropriate market infrastructure, most notably a solid accreditation program that would recognise both the training and professional experience of industry professionals, was never developed. This has created bottlenecks in the growth of the industry as well as successive waves of poorly designed and installed systems over the years. The CGC was created in 2003 by a joint effort of Natural Resources Canada and utilities to foster development of the ground source heat pump industry in Canada and to plan and develop a professionally certified Canadian geoexchange supplier base. 

  • unite and coordinate private and public sector stakeholders to inform, develop and promote ground source heat pump products and services
  • expand the ground source heat pump market in Canada
  • plan, coordinate, manage, and carry out activities that overcome barriers to effective market penetration for ground source heat pump products and services, including first cost competitiveness, infrastructure development and consumer confidence building.

Based on various industry consultations, discussions, and findings through pilot and demonstration projects, the CGC commissioned a study to investigate the viability of a CGC certification program, and to provide recommendations and guidelines for such a program. To achieve this, a review and analysis of other industry initiatives and a survey of multiple stakeholders from all levels of the industry value chain was conducted from December 2005 to February 2006.

Findings from the research conducted and ensuing recommendations and guidelines were produced for the CGC suggesting the development and implementation of a national geoexchange certification program. The CGC Board of Directors reviewed the recommendations and guidelines favourably, and decided to submit them for industry consultation. CGC published and disseminated a public consultation document in May 2006 throughout the country.

CGC then executed and completed a pan-Canadian public consultation in June 2006, meeting many interveners over the course of summer, fall, and winter and informing principal industry stakeholders about the proposed program of certification, and receiving their comments.

A few hundred people were directly involved in the consultation. CGC reached installers and designers directly, as well as public-sector managers, government organisms, and financial institutions. CGC recorded and compiled commentary collected during the consultation, in order to finalise the national program for implementation at the beginning of 2007.

The CGC Global Quality GeoExchange™ Program® is designed to bring value to industry participants who will benefit from increased market opportunities resulting from increased consumer confidence and its reference in procurement policies of the various stakeholders such as utilities, government agencies and financial institutions.

Drillers, installers and system designers are the three main components of the workforce in the geoexchange industry. Very often, those three functions will be performed by three different individuals, although it is not rare that one individual will carry forward two or even the three functions. For the CGC, it was important that the training program put in place reflect this market reality. 

Until the CGC training program was deployed, only basic introductory trainingwas available. Ranging from a half day to three days, none of those programs, either in Canada or in the United States had the scope or the depth to support a growing industry in a meaningful and sustainable manner.  CGC has developed its courses as part of a national quality initiative. This initiative is the CGC’s response to over four years of stakeholder requests to “raise the bar” in available training and in the consistency of quality of work delivered by geoexchange practitioners.

CGC training goes well beyond the basic introductory training for installers offered by other organizations. The four new CGC courses – for installers, drillers, residential system designers, commercial system designersrespectively – are part of the first national training and quality initiative based on Canadian climate, geology, and CSA Standards (C-448-02, principally).

The course training materials are the product of over eighteen months of effort from CGC staff, with contributions from about fifty of the industry’s top professionals and critical ongoing support from the federal government. The courses have gone through six drafts before release. To date, more than 500 industry specialists have registered and taken CGC courses.

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