CTC #33 - Unlocking clean energy with small-scale nuclear
Plus Amazon backs bioplastics & funding for AI-powered decarbonization tools
Welcome to another issue of Climate Tech Canada. This week we’re taking a closer look at nuclear energy in Canada and the growing momentum behind small modular reactors. We’ve also got funding for AI-powered building decarbonization, electric utility robots, bioplastics made from food waste and more!
In the news, Canada launches a comprehensive skills training program for low-carbon industries, Alberta and B.C. introduce their budgets with some wins for climate action, and a new taxonomy for sustainable investing takes aim at greenwashing. Let’s get into it!
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Natural Resources Canada launched a new program to support the deployment of Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs, a type of nuclear reactor. The federal program builds off of years of work developing a roadmap for SMRs in Canada and will support the development of supply chains, manufacturing and waste management solutions.
So what are SMRs and what do they mean for Canada?
The name says it all - SMRs are small nuclear reactors that typically generate 100s of megawatts of power versus the gigawatts produced by a larger reactor. They can be built easily due to their modular design, often mass produced in factories, and multiple smaller units can be chained together to produce more power.
The upside of SMRs versus traditional reactors include:
Lower costs to deploy (due to pre-fab construction and simple designs)
Suitable for remote or standalone locations
Enhanced safety features
SMRs can shut down safely and automatically if not actively managed, or are designed to make harmful emissions physically impossible. Some even reuse spent fuel which makes dealing with waste less of an issue.
Growing momentum for SMRs
Canada has a deep history with nuclear energy - the first nuclear reaction outside the U.S. was in Canada in 1944, and Canada is one of the top exporters of nuclear reactors and know-how. As large-scale nuclear has fallen out of favour due to safety concerns and cost overruns, SMRs are filling the gap. Their inherent safety features and less waste make them more politically and socially acceptable, which could unlock an abundant source of clean energy.
Because of these benefits, more provinces are looking to incorporate SMRs to decarbonize their energy portfolio. In 2022 Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta rolled out a strategic plan to support the deployment of SMRs. Since then, Ontario announced plans to build a new SMR at the Darlington site, while New Brunswick is using Arc Clean Energy’s ARC-100 reactor at the Belledune Green Energy Hub and is evaluating SMRs as a way to phase out coal. Alberta is working with Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy to explore SMR applications in the province.
Notably, the new federal program excludes reactor research and commercial installation. This is likely because economic, regulatory, and waste management issues present larger barriers to deployment than reactor innovation.
Funding and growth
Adaptis (Toronto, ON) closed a $2M pre-seed round for its building decarbonization platform. Adaptis’ platform uses AI to help building owners and operators efficiently assess and plan decarbonization efforts in their buildings, including analyzing existing building conditions, the value of salvage material, and adaptation feasibility planning. The funding will be used to expand and develop the product.
Swap Robotics (Kitchener, ON) raised $9.5M in seed funding for its electric mowing robots. Swap’s robots can be equipped with attachments for mowing or snow plowing, and are currently being used at utility-scale solar installations to reduce maintenance costs and emissions from gas-powered mowers.
Genecis Bioindustries (Toronto, ON) closed an undisclosed amount of funding from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund for its bioplastics solutions. Amazon is also evaluating how it can apply Genecis’ solutions in its operations. Genecis uses specialized bacteria to convert food waste into biodegradable plastics for food, textiles, medical products and more.
GaN Systems was acquired by chip maker giant Infineon Technologies for $830M USD. GaN Systems produces gallium nitride power semiconductors that are smaller and more energy efficient than silicon chips, reducing the energy and emissions intensity of a range of applications.
SolarBank Corporation (Toronto, ON) completed its $6M IPO, trading under SUNN. SolarBank is a solar power plant developer and manages and owns projects in Canada and the U.S.
FedDev Ontario announced $8.2M in funding for food packaging solutions, including $500K for Guelph-based Friendlier for growth and product development and $3.7M for Omnia Packaging to expand its compostable and recyclable packaging manufacturing.
The federal Agricultural Clean Technology program announced $24.1M for projects to reduce agriculture emissions and support innovation. Recipients include:
Anaergia (Burlington, ON) converts food waste into renewable fuel, preventing methane emissions
Evoco (Toronto, ON) low-emissions, plant-based materials for apparel
SixRing (Calgary, AB) produces Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) from biomass
Geomega (Montreal, QC) received $3M in funding from Canada’s Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration program to support the construction of a new demonstration magnet recycling plant and develop Geomega’s circular materials technology.
Li-Cycle (Toronto, ON) received a $375M USD loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a lithium-ion battery recovery plant in New York State.
B.C.’s Daiya Foods announced a multi-million dollar investment into new fermentation technology based on traditional dairy fermentation methods to improve the taste and texture of its plant-based cheese products.
Green Impact Partners has finalized funding for a new $1.2B bioethanol plant in Calgary, AB. The plant is expected to be carbon negative and produce ethanol, renewable natural gas, and livestock feed.
In the news
Emissions check-in: An early estimate of annual emissions from the Canadian Climate Institute found that Canada’s emissions grew by 19 Mt or 2.8% over 2020 figures. The good news is the overall trendline is moving down, albeit slowly, with emissions down 6.7% vs 2005 levels and general trend of decoupling economic growth from emissions.
Cleaning up greenwashing: Recommendations for a new “Sustainable Finance Taxonomy” came out last week. The taxonomy would establish a new classification system for what types of investments can be considered “sustainable”, creating clarity and preventing greenwashing. Key takeaways include a “Transition” label for industrial projects that demonstrate significant emissions reductions and have limited life spans and excluding oil & gas expansion, unlike earlier drafts.
The Taxonomy will make it a whole lot clearer what ESG commitments actually mean from financiers, driving more funding to projects aligned with net-zero ambitions.
$19M from the feds and $2.2M from B.C.’s CleanBC Go Electric program to install 2,416 EV chargers across B.C.
$344M to execute on the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy
Canada and the UK agree to collaborate more on critical minerals, including integrating supply chains and promoting higher ESG performance
The Offset Credit System now recognizes offsets for refrigerants to help incentivize businesses to upgrade their systems to refrigerants with a lower climate impact.
Measurement Canada approved Level 3+ chargers to charge by kWh instead of time spent charging, a more familiar pricing model that is similar to how you would be charged at a gas pump
New net-zero policies for federal procurement will require emission disclosure, reduction targets, and more from contractors.
Alberta’s latest budget includes an investment of $800M over three years from the TIER pollution pricing fund to emissions reductions programs and climate tech, but otherwise offered few new supports.
B.C.’s budget includes a range of climate initiatives, including funding for sustainable skills training, active transportation, climate-resilient communities, and a new carbon tax framework for industry that will replace the federal backstop
A proposed wind project in Newfoundland will be used to produce hydrogen and ammonia for export. The project is estimated to cost around $6B, and would produce around 3,000 MW of energy while creating 500 permanent jobs, a major boost for the region.
The University of Waterloo received $10M in federal funding to support the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics. The Institute will explore new tech and processes to help the aviation industry meet it’s net-zero commitments.
What’s going on
💡 Invest Nova Scotia is seeking applicants for its GreenShoots accelerator program. The program provides funding and support for early-stage ag-tech, bioeconomy and climate tech. Applications close March 14th.
🗓️ The Transition Accelerator: Hydrogen 101. Join Dr. David Layzell, one of Canada’s leading experts on the hydrogen value chain, to unpack the fundamentals of hydrogen and the opportunity for decarbonization. March 14th.
🗓️ How Ocean Tech Supports Climate Security. This webinar explores the security challenges resulting from climate change and the ocean tech that could help solve them. Hosted by COAST Canada. March 15th.
Check out our job board to see open roles at some of Canada’s most innovative companies including BluWave-ai, Manifest Climate, and New School Foods.
That’s all for this week. As always, thanks for reading and if you’re enjoying the newsletter, share it with a friend!