British Columbia created the Innovative Clean Energy Fund in 2007 to encourage the development and commercialization of new technologies for clean energy in order to protect the environment and support local economies and in the province.
The fund showcases energy and environmental technologies that solve local problems, yet have international market potential. ICE focuses on pre-commercial technology or commercial technologies not currently used in BC.
Levy and governance
The $25 million a year fund is collected through a 0.4 per cent levy on final sales of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, propane and any other product prescribed by regulation as an energy product. (Transportation fuels including gasoline and diesel are exempt from the levy.) The levy is assessed on residential and commercial/industrial customers. Each year a family will typically about $3 a year for the levy on electricity, $5 on natural gas, and $8 on fuel oil. There’s a $100,000 annual cap for industrial customers.
The fund is governed by a committee comprised of senior government and external representatives.
Initially two calls for application to the ICE Fund resulted in contributions of about $47 million towards 34 projects in communities across BC. These projects represent about $174 million of economic investment and showcase a variety of technologies that include solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, ocean wave, bioenergy and variable street lighting technology. Other projects have followed.
On July 18, 2008 the province announced approval of 15 clean energy projects throughout BC, investing $25 million from the fund. On April 3, 2009 19 projects were approved for rural and off-grid communities. The approved projects represented over $96 million in total value and will create about 750 temporary and full-time jobs in over 25 communities. On the same date eight projects were approved to develop cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, and biofuels technologies. Increased biofuels production will help meet the provincial standard of five per cent minimum annual average renewable content for gasoline and diesel used in B.C. by 2010.
Most recently, in March of this year, $6.6 million was invested in two cutting-edge CleanTech projects <ox2014> one that will create syngas from waste wood to generate heat and power, and another for windows that darken in sunlight and lighten at the flick of a switch.
“The Innovative Clean Energy Fund is helping entrepreneurs bring their new, clean energy technologies into the marketplace,” says Iain Black, Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development. “The 41 projects supported so far — with more to be announced — are creating jobs for British Columbians and green energy solutions for communities across the province, and the world.”
Just over $2 million goes to SWITCH Materials Inc., developers of thin films based on patented organic materials that “switch” optical properties by darkening automatically when exposed to sun, and rapidly bleaching on command when stimulated by electricity. The project will commercialize “smart” windows using this technology, creating 11 jobs immediately and more than 60 jobs by 2017.
Another $4.5 million will help the University of British Columbia and its project partners, Nexterra Systems Corp., GE Energy and FP Innovations, develop a system that uses biomass to create synthetic gas, which will be fired directly into a gas engine to produce both heat and energy for UBC’s Vancouver campus. The project will create 50 jobs immediately and almost 900 jobs by 2016. The project will lower greenhouse gas emissions by 4,500 tonnes per year, and similar plants could operate in B.C.’s remote northern forest communities and public institutions around the world.
The third call for funding proposals closes on July 5, 2010.
More information on the ICE Fund is available at www.sted.gov.bc.ca (Click on Innovative Clean Energy Fund on the right-hand navigation bar.) Readers can also email ICEFund@gov.bc.ca
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.