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Clean up in clean tech


October 6, 2010
by Kim Laudrum

Canadian manufacturers seeking opportunities for growth in a pokey economy would do well to consider the burgeoning clean technology industry. In 2008, global revenues in clean tech were a whopping US$148.4 billion.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s report: Global Climate-Friendly Trade: Canada’s Chance to Clean Up, venture capital and private equity financing in renewable energy projects grew by almost 70% compounded annually from 2002 to 2008.

Also spurring growth now are government stimulus programs worldwide amounting to US$430 billion: money that should help reduce the environmental impact of climate change, improve energy efficiency and create jobs.

Celine Bak, partner with consulting firm Russell Mitchell Group and author of The 2010 SDTC Clean Tech Growth and Go-To-Market Report, says that on average the clean technology sector in Canada is expected to grow an astonishing 117% this year.

That’s on average. Some sectors could grow substantially more than that. Alternative power generation, for example, is expected to see a 149% increase. Energy efficiency could grow 129%, while process efficiency and abatement is expected to grow 147 per cent.

Western Canadian firms are helping to power the innovation and growth in clean tech. Like Westport Innovations of Vancouver and Kraus Global of Winnipeg, IMW Industries Ltd. is a sterling example of Canadian manufacturing and engineering know-how operating in a burgeoning global market.

Brad Miller purchased 50% of Chilliwack, BC-based IMW in 2004, built it into a global clean tech exporter of compressed natural gas dispensing systems, then bought out the partners in 2006. Annual revenues jumped from $8 million in 2006 to $52 million in 2008—an astounding 700% increase in just two years.

IMW is a successful case study in Canada’s emerging $4-billion clean tech industry. With more than 1,000 installations in 20-plus countries (mainly throughout China and Latin America), the transportation company recognized—and met—a worldwide demand for increased energy security, reduced transportation costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.

And just as the company was hitting its stride, it became an attractive target for acquisition. On July 8, IMW was sold to Clean Energy Fuels Corp. of California for $125 million. It’s expected to continue to operate in Canada as a subsidiary of Clean Energy.

Emerging technologies
Despite the most challenging economic environment in decades, Bak contends this emerging clean technology industry promises prosperity. And nowhere is that more significant than in BC, which has the highest ratio of clean tech companies to percentage of Canada’s GDP—175%, according to Statistics Canada. And close to 100 of those companies operating in Western Canada have the potential to grow 117% this year, says Bak.