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Clean-tech companies in B.C. get $100M government boost

Funding announced as part of regional resource and energy collaboration framework
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson set up regional energy and resource tables last year to work with provinces and territories to develop sustainable economic development opportunities

An Austrian company that specializes in vehicle propulsion systems is receiving $15 million in federal funding to help it develop a hydrogen fuel cell research and development centre in Burnaby.

Meanwhile, the Semiahmoo First Nation and their industry partner, Andion Global, will receive $14.4 million for a renewable natural gas project on the Semiahmoo reserve in South Surrey.

AVL Fuel Cell Canada and the Semiahmoo-Andion projects are among the recipients of $100 million in government funding announced today in conjunction with a new “collaboration framework” between federal and provincial governments and First Nations Leadership Council for developing clean energy and sustainable resource projects in B.C.

The new framework, which aims to support and expedite the development of sectors like critical minerals mining and clean energy, was developed by B.C.’s regional energy and resource table, which Natural Resources Canada created last year as part of a strategy to develop clean growth opportunities in a decarbonizing world.

“In alignment with this initial phase of work under the regional energy and resource table, I am announcing funding of over $100 million in investments in initiatives that will help advance clean growth opportunities here in British Columbia,” federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Tuesday in Vancouver.

Every province and territory has or will have a regional energy and resource table, but B.C.’s appears to be the most advanced in terms of developing priorities and an action plan. First Nations organizations have been part of the regional tables that have developed a collaboration framework for B.C.

“This is a part of a high-level approach to prioritize a green economy by working in collaboration with First Nations to identify low carbon economic opportunities in energy, electricity, mining, forestry and clean technology sectors,” said Chief Don Tom, vice president of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs.

Each province or territory will develop different priorities for resource and energy development through their respective regional tables. In B.C., sectoral priorities that have been identified for development include critical minerals mining and processing, biofuels, hydrogen, renewable natural gas, sustainable forestry and carbon capture technology.

Josie Osborne, B.C. minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, said the collaboration framework announced Tuesday will support the work of a provincial hydrogen strategy and a BC Hydro Task Force that has been established to address electrical infrastructure in B.C.

One area all three levels of government have agreed to collaborate on is regulatory streamlining.

“As part of the collaboration framework being released today, Canada, British Columbia and First Nation partners have agreed to collaborate on aligning regulatory permitting processes that will aim to result in faster decisions, aligned with our common clean growth objectives,” Wilkinson said.

“I think minister Wilkinson and Osborne should be commended for delivering this framework,” said Michael Goehring, president of the Mining Association of B.C. “It’s a positive and necessary first step in provincial-federal cooperation – including participation and partnerships with indigenous nations – to expedite the development of critical mineral opportunities in British Columbia.

“It is unique in Canada at this moment. British Columbia is in a leadership position. Having said that – it’s a start. What’s really important here will be execution and delivery going forward.”

Clean Energy Canada also praised the new framework.

“One of the fastest growing industries in British Columbia’s clean energy sector is set to be hydrogen fuel cell production -- a reality that is reflected in the new framework, which places significant emphasis on clean fuels and hydrogen,” said Clean Energy Canada executive director Mark Zacharias.

B.C. is, indeed, an undisputed leader is hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is why AVL chose B.C. for a fuel cell research and development centre.

“As you probably know, Metro Vancouver is a globally renowned hub for hydrogen fuel cell development,” said AVL Fuel Cell Canada managing director Jose Rubio. “This is a place where we have a significant head-start and high knowledge base, versus other parts of the world. It’s something we need to nurture and take advantage of.

“The reason we’re here is, obviously, the hydrogen fuel cell segment is growing so much, and this is the hub for fuel cell stack development globally.”