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Apr 20, 2017

'Awash in red ink': Canadian clean tech struggling despite Ottawa's green goals

Increased investment needed in Canada's clean tech industry: Report

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Canadian clean technology companies are struggling to stay afloat and falling behind global peers even as Ottawa promises to boost the sector and move the country toward a low carbon future, a report released on Thursday showed.

Analytica Advisors said in its seventh annual report that despite years of publicly funded support for research and development, losses for clean tech companies widened to $3.56 billion in 2015 from $3.18 billion in 2014, and shareholder returns limped in below the Canadian average. Figures for 2016 are not yet available.

Those metrics have made it difficult to convince pension funds and other investors to put money into the sector even as Ottawa has made a string of promises designed to boost the green economy.

"In short, Canada's clean-technology industry is awash in red ink" and its companies vulnerable to foreign takeover, the report said adding that Canada's share of the global clean tech export market slipped to 1.4 per cent in 2015 versus 1.6 per cent in 2008, while Malaysia and China have taken much larger chunks over that period.

Canadian clean tech revenue rose eight per cent to $13.27 billion in 2015 versus the prior year, but the cost of financing projects has increased, adding to the pressure on companies looking to increase their scale.

One profitable company that nevertheless highlights the dilemma is Northland Power Inc, which has developed several offshore wind projects in Europe but is seeking a buyer to fund its next stage of growth.

Other publicly listed Canadian renewable energy companies include TransAlta Renewables Inc and Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.

The federal Liberal government has imposed a national price on carbon and sought to boost the use of renewable energy, promising $1.8 billion of federal funding over the next three years to support clean technology projects.

Canadian dollar issuance accounted for less than US$1 billion of the fast-growing global green bond market which totaled US$82 billion last year, an earlier report by RBC Capital Markets showed. ($