Ontario government scraps plan for $3.8 billion in renewable energy projects – Is this a harbinger of things to come?


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The move will keep $2.45 from going on the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill.

Ontario is blowing off plans for more wind and solar power as it feels the heat over high electricity bills less than two years before a provincial election.

In its latest effort to curb prices, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is axing plans to sign another $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said Tuesday.

The move — which the Progressive Conservatives have demanded for years — will prevent $2.45 from being added to the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill in the coming years.

Thibeault called it a “common sense” decision after the province’s electricity planning agency recently advised there is no “urgent need” for additional supply given Ontario’s surplus of generating capacity.

“I’ve been tasked to find ways to bring bills down,” said Thibeault, who was appointed minister last June. “When our experts said we didn’t need it, that’s when I acted.”

There may be more measures to come, Thibeault hinted in a speech prepared for the Ontario Energy Association on Tuesday night.

He pledged to “take a prudent look at every policy decision that has been made and determine if there is work we can do to reduce costs to Ontarians.”

The projects scrapped Tuesday would have created up to 1,000 megawatts of power, just under one-third of the 3,500 megawatts the four-unit Darlington nuclear power station produces near Oshawa.

 

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called the suspension “too little, too late” while former Liberal energy minister George Smitherman and environmentalists suggested the government should have taken aim at costly nuclear refurbishments.

“Ontario had a choice to look forward but it chose to look backwards,” Smitherman said in a statement.

“The cancellation of the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II) program makes it a scapegoat for pricing when the real culprit for oversupply is the aging Pickering nuclear plant.”

Ontario is planning to keep Pickering open until 2024 to provide electricity while it spends $12.8 billion refurbishing Darlington.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said “the Liberals have chosen the wrong target,” echoing comments from the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence that the renewable cancellation is “short-sighted.”

“If you’re concerned about cost, you do more renewables and less nuclear,” said Gideon Forman from the foundation, noting the suspension will cost jobs in the green energy sector.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association warned cancelling the renewables will make it harder for Ontario to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets in the battle against climate change.

Thibeault insisted the government is not “backtracking” on green energy because previously signed renewable contracts will go ahead in the province, eventually providing 18,000 megawatts of green energy. He said 90 per cent of generation, including nuclear, is emissions-free.Renewable Energy Pix

Sixteen projects — five wind, seven solar and four hydroelectric — approved last winter are proceeding and expected to create 455 megawatts of generating capacity.

That means ratepayers will still be on the hook for “energy we don’t need,” said Brown.

“They’ve made a huge mistake on the energy file . . . bills are still going to go up.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath blamed increasing privatization of the electricity system for steadily rising prices in the last decade, leaving Ontarians “paying the freight.”

The Liberal government, lagging in the polls, announced in its throne speech two weeks ago that the 8 per cent provincial tax on electricity will come off bills starting in January.

Many rural homeowners who face high delivery charges for hydro will also see 20 per cent savings, and 1,000 more companies will be able to take advantage of a program that allows them to shift hydro use away from periods of peak demand in return for lower prices.

That’s in addition to a hydro subsidy plan for low-income residents called the Ontario Electricity Support Program already in place.

Wynne and her MPPs were shadowed by wind farm protesters last week at the International Plowing Match and booed over hydro prices by some in attendance.

Thibeault downplayed the hostile reception.

“I was booed as a politician before. It’s something that comes with the job, right? My previous experience as a hockey referee helped me with the boos,” Thibeault told reporters Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the provincial Financial Accountability Office released a report that found households in Toronto and Niagara typically spend the least on home energy costs and confirmed that northern Ontario residents spend the most, with low-income families facing the highest burden.

We want to know what YOU think. Is a “practical” decision like this, based on “which way the political wind is blowing” (pardon the pun) make sense in the short term? Long term? Leave us your Comments. We always like hearing from you! – Team GNT

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Gov’t Awards $8.1 Million for Kingston Graphene Production


AA 1 grafoidThe Hon. Greg Rickford, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) announced today the award of $8.1 million to Grafoid Inc. – Canada’s leading graphene technologies and applications developer – to automate Grafoid’s production of its low-cost, high-purity MesoGraf™ graphene.

“Our government is investing in advanced clean energy technologies that create well-paying jobs and generate economic opportunities. Today’s announcement contributes to economic prosperity and a cleaner environment in Ontario and across Canada,” said Mr. Rickford, who is also the Minister Responsible for Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.

The contribution from SDTC is an $8.1 million non-repayable grant to design and test the automation system for the production of constant quality MesoGraf™. Further, the grant enables the testing of pre-commercial products using MesoGraf™ graphene from the automated system.

The minister announced the funding at a news conference in Toronto attended by Grafoid and five other Canadian non graphene-related technology companies.

Ottawa-based Grafoid, the developer of a diverse range of renewable energy, industrial, military and consumer applications from its MesoGraf™ materials is the first Canadian graphene technologies developer to partner with the Canadian Government.

Canada joins the European Union, the United States, China and South Korea in providing funding assistance to privately-held graphene enterprises.

Grafoid Founding Partner and CEO Gary Economo praised Canada’s decision to stake its claim in the graphene space as the world races toward the commercialization of a potentially disruptive, pan-industrial nanomaterial.

“This is a great day for the Canadian graphene industry and for Grafoid, in particular, because it leads us out of the laboratory and into the automated manufacturing of the world’s new wonder material,” he told the news conference.

“Effectively, today’s $8.1million Federal government funding grant enables us to take a giant leap towards graphene’s broader commercialization,” Mr. Economo said. “It will permit us to increase MesoGraf™ production output from kilograms to tonnes within our global technology centre in Kingston, Ontario.

“For this we are truly appreciative of Canada’s actions in recognizing our science and commercial objectives. In the past three years Grafoid has travelled the globe staking our unique position in the graphene revolution. Today we are gratified to do this going forward with the Government of Canada,” Mr. Economo said.

Grafoid produces MesoGraf™ directly from high-grade graphite ore on a safe, economically scalable, environmentally sustainable basis. Its patent pending one-step process is unique in the industry, producing single layer, bi-layer and tri-layer graphene.

It is then adapted – or functionalized – by Grafoid for use in biomedical, renewable energy storage and production, military, aerospace and automotive, additive materials for 3D printing, water purification, construction, lubricants, solar solutions, coatings, sporting equipment and other sectoral applications.

At one atom thin, graphene is a two-dimensional pure carbon derived from graphite.

It is the strongest material known to science, is barely visible to the naked eye, yet it holds the potential to become a disruptive technology across all industrial sectors and ultimately, for the benefit of humanity.

The World’s 20 Hottest Startup Scenes


Carbon NanotubeSure, Silicon  Valley is still No. 1, but some surprising cities like Sao Paulo, Brazil and  Bangalore, India have become successful startup hubs over the past decade.  Startup Genome’s Startup Ecosystem Report 2012 ranked the top 20 most active startup scenes in the  world based on criteria including funding, entrepreneurial mindset,  trendsetting, support, talent and more.

According to data compiled by financial-software firm Intuit, some of the cities even outshine entrepreneurial  darling Silicon Valley. For example, 20 percent of Santiago, Chile‘s  entrepreneurs are women compared with a paltry 10 percent in the Valley.

For the full list and more about the top 20 entrepreneurial cities around the  world, take a look at the infographic below.

Click  to Enlarge+

The World's 20 Hottest Startup Scenes (Infographic)

 

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227832#ixzz2cA93pTCb

How Ontario Plans to Become the World’s Top Technology Hub


Large Solar panelsCanadians: humble, mild, polite, with a global reputation for being  non-aggressive.

Except, of course, at a hockey game. And, increasingly, in Ontario, where  startups, government, industry, universities, angels, and venture capitalists  are working aggressively to try to create the world’s leading technology  hub.

Inside Waterloo, Ontario's new $160M center for quantum computing.

Inside Waterloo, Ontario’s new $160M center for  quantum computing.

“We want the world’s next biggest tech company to be built in Ontario,” the  most populous Canadian province’s minister of research and innovation, Reza  Moridi, told a small group of journalists recently in Toronto.

That’s aggression — even if spoken in a kinder, gentler way by an urbane,  mild-mannered politician.

It also might strike some as hubris, given that Ontario’s biggest technology  story to date is that of a dying smartphone manufacturer, BlackBerry (formerly  known as Research In Motion).

But it’s not just words, and it’s not just the government that’s behind this  effort.

Ontario’s reverse brain drain

Ontario is home to about 40 percent of Canada’s population and accounts for  48 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product. It’s the fourth-largest  population center in North America, after Mexico City, New York, and Los  Angeles, and it produces more cars than any other region in North America,  including Michigan. Ontario also has the Americas’ second-biggest financial  services sector, after New York.

More to the point, it’s North America’s second-leading cluster for technology  companies, after California, and has the third-largest concentration of life  sciences companies on the continent.

Google bought local startup BufferBox in late 2012

Google bought local startup BufferBox in late  2012

The government has invested $3.6 billion in those sectors, primarily, over  the last decade, with two-thirds going to research and development, and  one-third focused on building the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

That money has had an impact.

For years, countries like Canada and the U.K. have complained about a brain  drain, with the best talent heading stateside for more options and better pay.  Not anymore. In fact, quite the reverse.

“My co-founder left Silicon Valley to come here,” Cream.hr CEO Kateline  McGregor told me.

She’s starting her company at Communitech, a thriving, almost frenetic  community of startups, accelerators, massive technology companies, students, and  coworkers in Waterloo, Ontario. An hour’s drive up the 401 from Toronto,  Waterloo is a city of 98,000 that saw more than 500 startups take root in 2012.  And the massive burst of innovation has not gone unnoticed.

“Something very interesting is happening here,” Google’s top Canadian  employee, Steve Woods, told me. “This area has a very high proportion of  startups to population. Google loves startups … and we love to hire entrepreneurial people.”

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Woods himself is a Silicon Valley refugee, returning home to Canada after  building several companies in the Valley. Google recruited him over the course  of several years to lead its Canadian operations.

He points directly to U.S.  immigration policies that pose a critical problem for both startups and  large, wealthy corporations such as Google. Getting into the U.S. to build a  company or join a startup is notoriously difficult and expensive.


Where Woods works: This  Google office has a real fireman’s pole, slide, cattle walkway, and more  (gallery)


Meanwhile, Canada has just recently taken even more steps — such as the Startup  Visa — to make it simpler, quicker, and cheaper to come to Canada.

“Because of visa situations, Canada has received a disproportionate amount of  the talent that is coming into North America,” Woods said.

All of that translates into a significant competitive advantage for Canadian  startups and tech companies.

More education, more startups

Another competitive advantage, particularly in the Waterloo region, is the  constant stream of high-quality students coming out of engineering, math, and  computer science schools. I heard this ad nauseam from government  representatives I met with, and credible sources in the industry confirmed  it.

University of Waterloo students build startups at Velocity Garage, a for-credit accelerator-like program.

University of Waterloo students build startups at  Velocity Garage, a for-credit accelerator-like program.

Waterloo University produces an amazing kind of talent,” Woods told me. “It  gives students a great grounding in computer science, but also by the time they  graduate they’ve passed through four summers of co-op programs, so they’ve  worked at Facebook, at Google, Microsoft, BlackBerry, or other companies.”

Ontario’s 44 universities produce about 30,000 computer science and  engineering graduates each year, a steady flow of new talent for the province’s  startups as well as established IT, life sciences, and aerospace companies.

By contrast, California — a state with about three times the population of  Ontario — produces only 21,000  STEM graduates per year. The results are clear, at least for Woods.

“People that come into Google from the University of Waterloo do  disproportionately well,” Woods says.

One of the meeting rooms at Communitech, a startup mecca in Waterloo, Ontario. Google also has 200 employees here.

One of the meeting rooms at Communitech, a startup  mecca in Waterloo, Ontario. Google also has an office here.

Rob Crowe, executive-in-residence for Waterloo-based Institute for Quantum  Computing, the second-largest quantum computing research center in the world,  agrees.  And he points out another advantage that translates to more  startups coming out of key Canadian universities.

According to Crowe, a key difference between the U.S. and Canada is that many  Canadian universities have followed the European model of education-funded  research and development. Essentially, professors and researchers at the  University of Waterloo own any intellectual property they develop, not the  institution they work and teach for. That’s an incentive for academics to put  their best foot forward while on faculty, and to kickstart companies when their  ideas result in a viable product or company.

“This is the university that throws off more startups than any other  university in the country,” Crowe told me.

Less tax, more benefits, more investment

All of the above regional traits are excellent for students, researchers, and  startups, but there’s also good news for investors. Moridi’s ministry of  research and innovation has helped reduce corporate tax, while also providing  significant tax credits for companies doing innovative work.

“Ontario has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America, at 22  percent,” says John Marshall, president and CEO of the Ontario Capital  Growth Corp., Ontario’s voice in two venture funds totaling about $500 million.  The funds were raised partially by government, which recently announced  intentions to pump in another $50 million, but mostly by venture capitalists and  institutional investors.

Google has invested significantly in Waterloo, Ontario.

Google has invested significantly in Waterloo,  Ontario, hiring 200 engineers for its Canadian engineering  headquarters.

The goal is simple: Invest in potential high-growth venture-stage startups in  Ontario via a fund-of-funds approach that ensures industry participation and  leadership in every specific investment. In other words, Marshall puts money  into funds assembled by local VCs such as Omers, Northleaf Capital Partners, and  Rho Canada. Those VCs in turn drive the actual investments into companies like  Shopify, Desire2Learn (which recently closed an $80 million round), Polar  Mobile, and BlueCat Networks.

“Our overall aim is to build the ecosystem for innovation,” Marshall says. “That includes the demand side, with accelerators and startups, and the supply  side: seed funding, angel investors, and venture capitalists.”

The fund-of-funds strategy appears to be working. Two years ago the average  fund size in Canada was $60 million, compared to $180 million in the U.S., but  now the average Canadian VC fund is $90 million. Other venture entities, such as  Intel Capital and Samsung Venture Investment, are following the money and making  their own investments.

When that money gets into the hands of actual startups, it goes further,  according to the companies I talked to. The reason is Canada’s federal and  provincial research and development credits, which the Ontario government says  are “among the most generous of the OECD countries.”

Ontario had 500 startups in 2012 in Waterloo alone.

Ontario had 500 startups in 2012 in Waterloo  alone.

Taken as a whole, those credits can reduce the after-tax cost of $100 worth  of R&D to just $57 for corporations and just $39 for startups.

Fixmo CEO Rick Segal, an ex-patriate American, says those tax credits are one  of the key reasons he chose Toronto as the location for his latest mobile  security startup. The CEO of online advertising startup Chango, Chris Sukornyk,  told me the same thing.

Marshall says that the credits simply add on to a startup environment that  has long stretched every single dollar as far as it can go.

“Our entrepreneurs have already been so capital efficient by necessity,” he  says, adding that now that Ontario’s entrepreneurs have access to more money,  they’re still using it wisely.

That capital is starting to flow more freely lately, with VC investment up in  Ontario in the past few years. But startups, who benefit most from the R&D  tax credits, also have additional benefits. Almost every startup that graduates  from a major Canadian accelerator such as Hyperdrive and Extreme Startups in  Ontario, FounderFuel in Montréal, and GrowLabs in Vancouver, gets offered a  $500,000 convertible note by the Business Development Bank of Canada.

That’s cheap and none-dilutive money, and provides more runway for startups.  Most of which, realistically, need more than a three-month stint in an  accelerator program to become real companies.

Ambition, meet reality

There’s no doubt that Ontario is taking smart steps with the ultimate goal of  dominating the business of technology. But can it really out-innovate the  innovation capital of the world, Silicon Valley?

Toronto currently ranks eighth on the Startup  Genome’s list of global startup ecosystems, just above another Canadian  technology hub, Vancouver. Tiny Waterloo ranks 16th with its population of just  under 100,000, bringing to mind Tel Aviv, the super-fertile startup ecosystem of  400,000 people that currently holds third place.

Toronto's CN Tower

Toronto’s CN Tower

In addition, Ontario officials quietly let me know that they believe Ottawa  would have won a spot in the top 20 as well, if Startup Genome had analyzed the  data just a bit differently. That would, of course, have given Ontario three  cities in the global top 20.

But even considering the province’s leading contender, there’s still a long  way between eighth and first. And every country in the world, seemingly, wants  to follow the Silicon Valley model to the yellow brick road of employment and  riches.

Few succeed.

VC investment in Canada overall is still just a fraction of that in the U.S., with  about $1.5 billion invested in the entire country over all sectors in 2012,  compared to $8.3 billion invested in the U.S.  in software alone, and  another $6.7 billion just in web-based startups. In Ontario specifically, VC  investment was just $603 million, compared to California’s U.S.-leading $14.1  billion.

And RIM, with revenues of $18 billion in fiscal 2012 dropping to $11.1  billion in fiscal 2013, is still probably the province’s biggest tech  company.

That’s not a good sign.

Turning to BlackBerry for inspiration

Despite the small numbers, startups are increasingly choosing Ontario as  home. Taxation and immigration policies as well as investments from blue-chip  funds like Union Square and Kleiner Perkins are having a massive cumulative  effect.

Even BlackBerry  is feeding the culture of innovation in Ontario, despite being in what are  perhaps its death throes.

Fixmo CEO Segal says BlackBerry has been an amazing influence in Ontario, and  continues to be influential. “There are lots of alumni from RIM, both voluntary  and involuntary,” he says with a wry grin.

Marshall says the growth of BlackBerry from nothing to its heights as the  first key innovator of the smartphone revolution has had its own impact,  regardless of the company’s current situation.

“Now you’ve got kids coming up who saw their parents do it,” he says. “So  they believe they can do it too.”

500 new startups in Waterloo in 2012 alone attest to that fact.

In the against-all-odds world of the startup, belief is the key ingredient of success.
Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/08/how-ontario-plans-to-become-the-worlds-top-technology-hub/#2MVDWyVDTJZvIsx1.99

Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/08/how-ontario-plans-to-become-the-worlds-top-technology-hub/#2MVDWyVDTJZvIsx1.99

Ontario to Provide $50 Million for New Venture Capital Fund


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The government of Ontario announced yesterday that they have invested $50 million into a new venture capital fund, aimed at stimulating the provinces’ entrepreneurial talent.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was on hand at Toronto-based accelerator Extreme Startups to make the announcement. According to Wynne the fund is necessary to keep high potential, innovative startups form leaving the province.

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“For Ontario companies to compete on the world stage, our entrepreneurs need access to capital,” said Wynne. “Our new venture capital fund will help unlock more financing opportunities for these emerging startups, creating the next wave of Ontario-made innovations and Ontario-based jobs.”

The federal government is also pitching in with another $50 million, while Ontario will likely get private investors to bring the fund total to over $300 million. It will be managed by a private sector fund manager to be named.

“The fund is part of the government’s plan to foster the right climate to attract investment, support innovation, create jobs and grow Ontario’s economy,” reads the Ontario government’s website.

The new fund will build on the Ontario Venture Capital Fund, created in 2008. The existing fund has raised $750 million in private capital, generated $3.6 billion worth of economic activity and created over 50,000 jobs.

The move comes after the government of Canada announced in mid January that it would provide $400 million in venture capital funding. That decision was highly praised by several VC leaders and bloggers throughout Canada, including iNovia’s Chris Arsenault and Version One Ventures’ Boris Wertz.

For Wynne the moves comes as a needed step forward in insuring that Ontario startups grow in Ontario. “Companies, if they can’t get access to capital here in Ontario, they will go somewhere else,” she said. “We want the best ideas and the most innovative companies to stay right here in Ontario.”