Giving styrofoam a second life (not in the ocean)
— Emily Chung, CBC
A couple of weeks ago, Andrea Kay wrote about the problem of polystyrene foam, commonly called styrofoam, and the fact that very little of it gets recycled. Eighty per cent of the plastic foam discarded in Canada ends up in landfills or waterways, and most communities in Canada don't accept it for recycling.
And why is that? It's lightweight and bulky, making it expensive to collect and transport; it breaks apart easily, contaminating other recyclables; and many municipalities struggle to sell it, especially since China closed its doors to a lot of foreign recyclables in 2018.
But what if there was a way to make discarded styrofoam more valuable? Brantford, Ont.-based startup GreenMantra is trying to do just that, and CEO Jodie Morgan thinks it's the key to boosting recycling rates.
"We can create products that can have much more value than the original plastic," she said.
Most plastic packaging is very cheap and is recycled into other low-value products. Styrofoam electronics packaging and dishware, for example, are often turned into picture frames and mouldings.
Domenic di Mondo, GreenMantra's vice-president of technology, said it's often hard to combine a mixture of different kinds of "recycled" styrofoam to manufacture a single product, such as insulation.
GreenMantra's solution is a "chemical recycling" process that breaks the polystyrene molecules into smaller molecules that behave completely differently from polystyrene.
These can then be sold as additives for inks and coatings in the printing industry. They can also be used to homogenize a mixture of different kinds of styrofoam so that it can be turned into new products. Morgan likens it to the emulsifier that keeps the oil and water from separating in a bottle of salad dressing.
GreenMantra has just built a new demonstration plant in Brantford that it expects to start running in the next month or two. The company has been buying styrofoam from communities and industrial facilities.
Di Mondo said the goal is to show that waste plastic has value, and thus motivate more communities and companies to collect it.
GreenMantra isn't the only Canadian cleantech startup using new technology to tackle the styrofoam recycling problem. Our readers have flagged some others. We'll have an article soon that takes a more detailed look at other solutions.
TORONTO, October 9, 2018 – ArcTern Ventures, a global, early-stage venture capital firm focused on breakthrough clean technologies, is pleased to announce a first closing of Fund II, with new partners OMERS and Equinor (formerly Statoil) as anchor investors. ArcTern raised CDN$60 million of its target CDN$100 million and expects to hold a final closing in the near future with a maximum target of CDN$150 million.
In Canada, ArcTern works closely with MaRS Discovery District, North America’s largest urban innovation hub and a leader in startup acceleration, to find the highest-potential companies in cleantech. “We are heavily committed to cleantech and believe that Canada, with its historic investment in this sector, is a highly attractive place for investing,” says Yung Wu, MaRS CEO. “Investors like ArcTern understand how to support and grow these early stage startups.”
“Technology and innovation are impacting every facet of life, including energy and the environment. We see the promise of both profit and positive impact as this accelerates,” says Paul Manias, Managing Director of OMERS Platform Investments. “We evaluated a number of top cleantech funds and decided to make ArcTern our first partnership. ArcTern’s strong, entrepreneurial team, early-stage focus in many cleantech subsectors, and strong relationship with MaRS, made it stand out in the cleantech space.”
Gareth Burns, Equinor’s vice president and managing director, adds: “As the current energy transition continues to progress, Equinor Energy Ventures is investing in attractive and ambitious growth companies in renewable energy. Equinor, formerly Statoil, chose ArcTern as a North American partner because of its unmatched access to the early-stage cleantech startup ecosystem.”
Murray McCaig and Tom Rand co-founded ArcTern Ventures in 2012, then at a low point for cleantech venture capital, with a unique thesis on how to succeed in the sector. “We are in the early stages of a multi-decadal global transition to a low-carbon, cleaner economy,” says McCaig. “We’ve developed an investment model specifically tuned to this sector, which is enabling us to accelerate the commercialization and growth process for emerging clean technology companies.”
Rand, a well-known climate solution advocate, believes that ArcTern can play a strong role in both helping the planet and advancing the innovation economy. “If you solve a big problem, you get a big reward, and climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face,” he says. “Just as the internet is no longer a sector, but the foundation of our digital economy, cleantech is the foundation of a new, low-carbon economy, pervasive across all industries and asset classes.”
About ArcTern Ventures
ArcTern Ventures is a global, early-stage venture capital firm investing in breakthrough clean technologies. The firm aims to generate outsized financial returns and positive environmental impact. ArcTern invests across six core cleantech subsectors, including: renewable energy; energy use and storage; circular economy; advanced manufacturing and materials; mobility; and agritech. For more information, please visit www.arcternventures.com.
Founded in 1962, OMERS is one of Canada’s largest defined benefit pension plans, with more than $95 billion in net assets, as at December 31, 2017. It invests and administers pensions for almost half a million members from municipalities, school boards, emergency services and local agencies across Ontario. OMERS has employees in Toronto and other major cities across North America, the U.K., Europe, Asia and Australia – originating and managing a diversified portfolio of investments in public markets, private equity, infrastructure and real estate.
Equinor, formerly Statoil, is a Norway based broad energy company with operations in more than 30 countries. As part of Equinor’s strategy to actively complement its oil and gas portfolio with profitable renewable energy sources, the company has developed a sizeable offshore wind portfolio and is also investing in growth companies in renewable energy.
About Equinor Energy Ventures
Equinor Energy Ventures is one of the world’s largest corporate venture funds dedicated to investing in attractive and ambitious growth companies in renewable energy. The fund has built a portfolio of investments in companies and funds since it was established in February 2016. The aim of the investments is to help the companies grow, become commercial successes and deliver technologies and business opportunities that can have a relevance to Equinor in the future.
For further information, contact Murray McCaig at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rand on CBC News Network panel, discussing the implications of rising climate risk in the context of Canadian political wrangling, and the irony of Canada’s political right rejecting market mechanisms as a solution.
Panel discussion on the cost of Ford’s Energy Shake Up w Steve Paikin.
“Ford lost an opportunity to make Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade revenue neutral. He’d get the political benefit of sending out a cheque with his name on it every month, and he’s own the climate file. Instead he’s picked a fight with Trudeau over climate. That’s not a fight he will win.”
A recent announcement by Canada's federal government that they would mitigate some of the costs of their carbon pricing scheme had many accusing them of watering down their climate efforts. In this CBC News Network interview, Rand makes the case the new format is just as effective at reducing emissions, yet provides a more dynamic approach for large, trade-exposed emitters - all driven primarily by the Feds' need to address the Ontario economy, with Premier Ford having ripped up the existing cap-and-trade.
Rand's recent op-ed in the Globe and Mail on the hard math of expanded bitumen production in a carbon-constrained Canada.
Absent the Paris Accord, the furor over the Trans Mountain pipeline is overblown. Despite the escalating rhetoric of provincial Premiers John Horgan and Rachel Notley, jurisdiction falls squarely on the federal government. By following an existing route to an already bustling port, it’s one of the least intrusive pipelines on the books. Worries about spills, both en route and in ocean waters, are real but manageable. And if investors want to bet on long-term high carbon infrastructure in a carbon-constrained world, they’re free to do so. But for that pesky Paris Accord.
Canada faces a shrinking emissions pie. Our contribution to the Paris Accord – an agreement to reduce emissions 30 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050 – is a moral commitment shared by us all, and one that is supported by a majority of Canadians. When a single province, industry or company increases emissions, it puts a heavier burden on others. Behind the debate surrounding Trans Mountain lies the real fight: it’s a long-overdue conversation about shared climate burden.
Trans Mountain is a tangible expression of the continued dominance of fossil fuels. For many protesters, it signals continued expansion of Alberta’s heavy oil production, already the single largest industrial source of emissions in the country. Production growth depends mainly on the price of oil, of course. Below $60, there will be little increase. But the federal government’s signal it will provide financial backing for Trans Mountain gives comfort to those who believe production expansion and shared climate commitments go hand in hand. They cannot.
Imagine a boat needs to cross a shallow river, rife with rocks. To be safe, the boat’s draft must be reduced by shedding a thousand kilograms. Each of the 10 occupants is expected to play their part and ditch luggage. One occupant insists they uniquely have the right to take on more weight, not less. The captain of the boat even buys them a bigger backpack. Every additional kilo that person takes on makes it that much harder for others, and raises the ire of those committed to a sense of fair play.
The math is cruel. Alberta’s heavy oil emissions sit at 70 megatonnes (MT) today. Ms. Notley’s hard cap allows an increase by almost half, to 100 MT. Were Canada to meet its 2050 commitment, those emissions would represent more than two-thirds of the entire country’s emissions – for far less than a 20th of the economy.
The rest of Canada simply cannot make up the difference. From a practical perspective, every other industry and province would need to go to near-zero emissions to allow room for increased – or even existing – bitumen production in Alberta. Why should Ontario’s manufacturing, New Brunswick’s farming or Quebec’s pulp-and-paper industries work so hard to have it all undone by a few new in-situ bitumen mines?
It’s reasonable to ask of that shrinking pie: What emissions and for whose benefit? How we maximize economic activity per unit of emissions over the long term is a necessary and pragmatic question. An empirical, as much as a political, one. We might ask the same of B.C.’s proposed liquefied natural gas export industry.
Perhaps technology will save the day, and bring about an emissions-free heavy bitumen industry. An increasing price on carbon is one way to wave that economic wand. We’ve seen impressive advances in innovation thus far – but never have they led to a decrease in absolute emissions.
Arguments that Alberta, as a resource-based economy, has a more difficult job than other jurisdictions ring hollow – as do similar skeptical arguments about Canada more broadly. Emission reductions are by definition not absolute. They’re measured from baselines, which take into account existing vagaries of geography, reliance on resource extraction, even how many citizens choose to drive F-150s or Ford Broncos to hockey practice.
Radical Albertans may argue they’re better off outside the Canadian family, free of such constraints. Most obviously, that would not get a pipeline built. Worse, as a country Alberta’s per capita emissions would be, by far, the highest in the world – more than four times those of Saudi Arabia. I doubt young, savvy Albertans are willing to wear the moral shame of withholding climate commitments entirely. And without the rest of Canada to provide a buffer, those “national” reductions would be much sharper than they are now.
We’ve built pipelines before. All energy projects bring risk, that risk is manageable. Building infrastructure always makes someone angry. These issues are not new. They’re proxies for the real heat behind Trans Mountain. We’re finally beginning a long, difficult national discussion about who gets to emit, how much, to whose benefit and at what cost. A uniquely Canadian family squabble.
Globe & Mail, April 8, 2018
by TYLER HAMILTON
When we burn fuel to power vehicles and machinery, drive industrial processes or generate electricity, most of the energy in this fuel is dumped into the atmosphere as heat.
In one 2016 study, German researchers estimated that 72 per cent of global primary energy consumption – that is, using coal, oil, natural gas and uranium as fuel – is lost as waste heat. Most of this heat is rated “low grade,” meaning it’s less than 100 C. It includes the heat emitted from data centre server farms and the warm air that flows out the back of your kitchen refrigerator or air conditioner.
Recovering low-grade heat in an economical way, particularly to produce large amounts of power, is tremendously difficult, but a Waterloo-based venture called Smarter Alloys appears to have found a novel way forward. The company’s approach lies in a seemingly magical alloy called nickel-titanium, which also goes by the names Ni-Ti or “nitinol.”
Nitinol is a shape-memory alloy, meaning that if a piece of nitinol is bent it will return to its original shape when heat is applied. Scientists have been fascinated by this unique property for decades, and in the 1970s, aerospace company McDonnell Douglas (which eventually became part of Boeing) developed a prototype device that took advantage of this heat-triggered mechanical movement to produce limited amounts of power.
Problem is, scientists back then didn’t know why nitinol behaved the way it did, meaning they couldn’t really manipulate the material in a way that explored its full potential. The alloy was also prohibitively expensive, killing any economic argument for pursing the concept.
But as many entrepreneurs know well, the future has a way of knocking down barriers that once stood in the way of past innovations. Enabling technologies are born. Costs fall. Markets demand change. Creative thinking and continued experimentation can lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
One such breakthrough came in 2008, when Ibraheem Khan, while working on his PhD at the University of Waterloo, discovered he could alter the behaviour of nitinol by using high-powered laser beams to “tune” its microstructure.
“We were able to program the alloy to make it react in a certain way when exposed to certain temperatures,” Dr. Khan explains , adding that with the approach, he could design a piece of nitinol to have more than a one-shape memory. “We can make materials function like machines.”
To illustrate his point, Dr. Khan hands me a piece of nitinol wire that looks like a straightened out paper clip. He asks me to warm it up by rubbing the wire in my palms, which I do. When I open my hands, I see that the wire is now in the shape of a maple leaf, bent perfectly in more than a dozen places.
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“We call this a Multiple Memory Material,” he says.
When Dr. Khan founded Smarter Alloys in 2009 to develop commercial applications for the material, generating power from waste heating wasn’t on his radar. His initial focus was on high-end orthodontics, leading to a product called SmartArch. Made of nitinol wire, the SmartArch can be programmed to apply the right amount of force on each tooth. The tooth-moving forces along the wire are tuned to the temperature in a person’s mouth.
The wires, which became commercially available last year, work faster than conventional braces and require fewer orthodontic appointments. Treatment that might normally take 24 months can be reduced to as little as six months, Dr. Khan says.
Beyond creating perfect smiles, the applications of this technology are almost endless. Smarter Alloys is currently developing programmable stents for heart patients, lightweight and low-cost actuators for vehicles and airplanes, precision golf clubs and heat-activated sports apparel.
But the biggest prize, by far, is creating a heat engine that can finally take advantage of all the low-grade heat around us – even, one day, the latent heat that exists in our oceans. Dr. Khan estimates it as a trillion-dollar market opportunity, and in pursuit of that prize, he has created a subsidiary of Smarter Alloys called XtractEnergy.
Unlike other forms of electricity generation that depend on high-temperature, high-pressure steam to move a turbine, XtractEnergy’s heat engine – in its simplest form – uses a nitinol-based belt to turn a pulley that spins a generator.
The belt is tuned in different places so that it behaves a certain way when exposed to a low-grade heat source. When a tuned portion of the belt is submersed in warm water, it contracts, causing the belt to pull in one direction. When it leaves the water and relaxes, another portion is submerged, causing another contraction.
This process continues as long as one portion of the belt is always submerged in the water. When there is a consistent heat source, the belt will snake itself around the pulley, creating enough torque to spin a generator.
It’s efficient and also clean. Nitinol is non-toxic and entirely recyclable – the belts can be melted down and remade into new belts. It’s also an economical way of producing power with low-grade heat, partly because the cost of nitinol has fallen dramatically, thanks to scale production in China driven by its growing use in medical devices.
Most importantly, Smarter Alloys has perfected how to program the nitinol, turning otherwise simple pieces of wire into smart machines capable of great things. This intellectual property will give the company a big edge in the race to develop the world’s most efficient heat engine.
Globe & Mail, January 5, 2018
An enormous amount of Canadian capital is lying in wait, pushing global investors to 'nosebleed levels' to put this money to work. Jeffrey Jones and Jacqueline Nelson delve into a competitive climate that hasn't been seen in more than a decade
Canada's biggest investors have a trillion-dollar problem.
A stunning $1-trillion (U.S.) in capital – nearly double the amount available in 2012 – is sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be put to work by private equity investors across the globe. So many firms are chasing deals that it is creating the most competitive investment climate in more than a decade.
In addition to that heap of cash, hundreds of billions of dollars are piling up in funds devoted to other private asset classes. Some of it is destined for infrastructure projects, such as roads, power lines and airports; some of it will be used to buy up real estate, invest in private debt or scoop up timberland or other natural resources. And the fundraising hasn't stopped. At the start of 2018, there were 3,484 private capital funds courting investors for yet more money, according to alternative asset data firm Preqin.
It's enough to remind some people of the exuberant mood right before the financial crisis, when 12 of the largest 15 corporate leveraged buyouts ever were done – not long before the industry, and the global economy, were sideswiped by the end of easy credit.
"There are some ingredients of 2007," said Simon Marc, the London-based head of private equity at PSP Investments, which invests about $140-billion on behalf of federal government workers, including the RCMP.
He said the environment has private equity firms caught between the lure to sell assets and the pull to buy them. On one hand, it's hard to ignore a red-hot market in which where prices often exceed expectations. On the other, strong economic and market conditions have led to robust profits across a large number of industries, creating a compelling case for holding, or making new, investments.
"We're going to be very cautious, very selective about what we do," Mr. Marc said. "But we can't be sitting on the side doing nothing, either."
For many of Canada's private-market investors – which include the major pension funds, insurance companies and other players such as Onex Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. – there's more at stake than ever before. Over the past decade, the big Canadian funds have gotten bigger, gaining the clout necessary to compete with the world's richest players in private investments. But having a spot at an increasingly crowded investment table presents a new test. Failing would be costly.
The last time the buyout market collapsed, the list of casualties was long. Well-respected, high-profile firms were left holding the bag as deals completed at the fevered peak of the market went bad.
The biggest leveraged buyout of the time, the $45-billion acquisition of Texas utility TXU Corp. in 2007 by a group that included KKR & Co., TPG Capital Management and an arm of Goldman Sachs, turned out to be a spectacular flop. The company, renamed Energy Future Holdings, struggled with falling natural gas prices and a declining retail franchise. Drowning in red ink and $42-billion of debt, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2014.
Apollo Global Management and TPG purchased casino operator Harrah's Entertainment Inc. in early 2008 for $30-billion and renamed it Caesars. The odds turned against the buyers – a heavy debt load and fewer gamblers led to the company's bankruptcy filing in 2015 and subsequent restructuring.
And when aftershocks of the U.S. mortgage crisis brought the leveraged finance market to its knees, many buyers were forced to renegotiate or drop out of deals altogether. Canadians will remember the one that got away: the $51-billion (Canadian) takeout of BCE Inc. by a group led by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. The peak of hubris for the era, the debt-financed deal collapsed in the crisis of late 2008 following months of uncertainty and drama about the ability of banks to put up the financing.
A decade on, it has become a world of monsters again – monster funds pursuing massive deals. Fundraising for the largest-ever private-equity fund, Apollo Investment Fund IX, closed in the third quarter of 2017, garnering $24.7-billion (U.S.). Others funds are on track to surpass that amount, including China Structural Reform Fund and China State-Owned Capital Venture Investment Fund.
The key questions now are where all of this money will get invested, and how can that cash earn solid returns in a global market where asset values – from corporations to public infrastructure to real estate – are already seen as bloated. Some funds, particularly in the U.S., have opted to park money in exchange-traded funds while waiting for markets to cool and better targets to emerge.
"Valuations are obviously very stretched in many ways around the world. But that doesn't necessarily precipitate a downturn," said Mark Machin, CEO of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. He said the fund is constantly running stress tests to see how its investments would hold up under more difficult economic conditions.
Asset prices have soared because of a decade of cheap money, thanks to post-crisis policies of the world's major central banks. Public equity markets in many countries, particularly the United States, now look frothy; that is fuelling inflation in private assets, too. In an early 2017 report, Bain & Co. said acquisition multiples are hitting record highs across the US and Europe, at more than 10 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. A more recent report from data platform Pitchbook showed that deal multiples for M&A activity in North America had climbed to the highest levels they'd ever recorded.
"We are constantly in auctions where people are surprised how aggressive bids are," said Bruce Rothney, chief executive officer of Barclays in Canada. "Despite what they think is an over-aggressive bid on their own part – they almost push their boards to nosebleed levels, only to discover that somebody was more aggressive than they were."
CPPIB's Mr. Machin said it will be important to be ready to pounce when things become less expensive.
"When there's a downturn, that should be the moment when we're making really good investments at really compelling prices. We want to make sure we have the ability to do that," he said.
How can the Canadians compete and mitigate the risks for their stakeholders? Showing up at the right time with a padded wallet isn't enough anymore. It's time to get creative.
Canada's institutional investors are moving to play to their strengths and develop new ways to stand out from the pack. That includes developing relationships with wealthy families in far-off lands, preparing for an energy transition years into the future, shoring up on infrastructure assets they can hold for decades and looking to more niche investments, such as the burgeoning marijuana industry, for returns.
As a response to the competitive deal environment, and in an effort to earn higher returns, institutions are building up leadership teams and hiring more deal hunters with experience in far-off places. CPPIB has hubs in Sao Paulo and Mumbai and its CEO, Mr. Machin, spent about 20 years working in Asia-Pacific markets before taking the top job. PSP Investments officially opened a London office this year and is already eyeing its next Hong Kong outpost. Brookfield has been putting more capital into India, where its infrastructure team sees more opportunity in the telecom sector.
The strategy runs far deeper than simply putting boots on the ground. Rather than waiting around to bid at competitive auctions, some Canadian funds are patiently and quietly courting wealthy families overseas as a way to source unique investment opportunities.
This style of deal-making often involves years of meetings to establish trust between family-owned businesses and would-be partners before any deal is inked. But once forged, these blue-chip family relationships can open the door to new webs of private investor contacts across Europe and Asia, as well as opportunities outside the competitive auction circuit.
Wooing these foreign families has become a more important strategy for some pension funds in recent years. They argue that they can be better partners of family offices than traditional private equity firms because of their long-dated investment horizons, comfort with minority ownership positions and friendlier management cultures.
"It's like a private club … It's a different network from the mainstream financial investment network," said Stéphane Etroy, London-based head of private equity at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec on a recent trip to Toronto.
The Caisse employs teams of people specifically responsible for building relationships with governments, entrepreneurs and other leaders in their local markets where they speak the language. Mr. Etroy says that once you do a deal with a family you become a part of the group.
In the United States and Britain, there are fewer opportunities to partner with families, since markets are more mature. This has resulted in fewer and less active family funds, investors say.
In continental Europe, however, the fragmentation of the countries and cultures has yielded more such ownership, particularly industrial businesses.
And in Asia, India and China in particular, there has been a surge of wealthy first-generation entrepreneurs, according to the Asia Pacific Centre for Family Business Excellence run by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which opened the consulting centre in 2016. Many of these business owners are motivated to leave a legacy and find the long-term approach taken by pension funds to be more palatable than the model used by other private equity buyers, Mr. Etroy said.
Earlier this year, the Caisse took a 40 per cent stake in Sebia SA, a French medical diagnostic company, that Mr. Etroy said was emblematic of the partnerships the fund looks for. The deal involved bringing in Tethys Invest, an investment fund controlled by the Bettencourt-Meyers family of France, and Caisse CEO Michael Sabia flew to Paris himself to strengthen the bond.
"We think we could potentially be doing more things together," Mr. Etroy said of the relationship. Many of the deals struck with families are less threatening than minority ownership positions in businesses with no planned exit. Where the Caisse may hold a standard private equity position for about three or four years, many of the family deals last well more than a decade.
Other pension funds are also building out their relationship teams. Last year, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan launched a department responsible for developing global investment relationships that will co-ordinate the many partnerships the fund has forged through its investment deals around the world. The fund's CEO, Ron Mock, said it's "intended to be the building of a network."
While Canada's big investors are looking abroad for deals, others international buyers are gravitating to Canada in their hunt for investment opportunities, even if their targets are typically smaller.
"You've got a lot more foreign funds recognizing Canada for mid-market companies, particularly U.S. funds," said Jake Bullen, a lawyer for Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP specializing in private equity deals. "You've got all that interest, you've got a lot of dry powder and the result is a very competitive market for good companies."
Increasing interest in Canada among U.S. funds has its benefits – it can mean opportunity for domestic players to sell businesses at healthy valuations when the time is right, said Brent Belzberg, founder of TorQuest Partners. Torquest sold a majority stake in SCM Insurance Services to U.S.-based Warburg Pincus in August. In 2015, it sold store-display and merchandising company Array Marketing to The Carlyle Group.
"We have an amazing business in basically creating an arbitrage between the time that businesses we know through our relationships in Canada can be built and when we get them mature enough that they can be put into a book and sold through major world-class investment bankers to people who don't see the border as an impediment," Mr. Belzberg said.
The future of energy
Brookfield is buying Westinghouse Electric, a nuclear energy company, from Toshiba.
Canadian private equity is funding a lot of the shift to renewable energy.
Brookfield Asset Management is one of the world's largest investors in the sector, with a major focus on hydro power and holdings in wind and solar. On Thursday, it announced it was leading a $4.6-billion bid to buy Westinghouse Electric Co., the struggling nuclear power giant, from Japan's Toshiba Corp., which was another departure from carbon-intensive power.
The Caisse has also been boosting already-large investments, with a recent $150-million (Canadian) loan to Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and the purchase of a $288-million stake in Boralex Inc., which operates wind, solar and hydro projects in Canada, France and the United States.
The renewable-energy industry, estimated to be worth as much as $300-billion (U.S.) annually, is becoming a magnet as governments in Canada and elsewhere tighten carbon-emissions regulations, and as the fossil fuel industry exits the third year of a downturn that has caused a major shakeout of investors in both public and private markets.
The difference between today's cleantech world and the one that existed 10 years ago is that it now has the ability to generate real returns without massive government subsidies, said Tom Rand, managing director of ArcTern Ventures, which invests in companies bringing in new technology to aid the integration of renewables into today's energy systems.
The trick for private investors is identifying the technologies that will allow them to get first-mover advantage before crowds of investors show up to fund major expansion.
"The economy's changing. Some people just haven't figured this out yet. We're moving to a low-carbon economy come hell or high water. Those who understand that's inevitable are starting to figure out, how do I put some money in play to give me an advantage as that transition occurs?" Mr. Rand said. "They're busy buying their way to the front of the line to finance those types of projects."
Today's biggest breakthroughs are in technology that allows the grid to operate with increasing amounts of renewable power. They mesh well with the major investments being made by the largest pension and private-equity funds.
"So that's where the Brookfields and so on of the world are creating a market for us – not simply more solar, but smart grid, energy storage, power electronics – all the stuff that comes in later," he said.
ArcTern has co-invested with such diverse players as the Kuwaiti Investment Authority, Enbridge Inc. and Canoe Financial and expects to close a new $150-million (Canadian) cleantech fund this month.
Building on an infrastructure boom
A Brookfield Infrastructure deep-lake cooling pipeline project near Toronto.
It's not enough to be a world leader in owning and operating toll roads, bridges and power lines anymore – Canada's top investors in infrastructure have been forced to become more inventive.
Two decades ago, infrastructure was just coming alive as an asset class. Governments in developed economies began to change their thinking on public works projects and became more comfortable with offloading some responsibility to the private sector.
This trend accelerated after the financial crisis, as cash-strapped governments looked further afield for financial partners. Big investors stepped up, drawn to the fact that infrastructure investing tends to have less competition, lower volatility, inflation protection and longer-term holding periods than other assets.
Canadian funds were big buyers and are now known for their expertise. It's a good place to be, given that governments around the world are building at a record pace and the need for capital to fund construction and maintenance of critical infrastructure is high. But also rising is the amount of money that flooded into the asset class in the wake of the financial crisis. Cash available to be spent by fund managers stands at a record $160-billion, according to Preqin Ltd., which tracks private equity deals and fundraising.
"There are clearly some asset classes that, given extremely low interest rates and what would seem to be unending sources of capital to pursue investment … have probably been chased pretty aggressively," says Mr. Rothney of Barclays, citing infrastructure as a key example. "And therefore the valuations have become quite lofty and returns quite difficult."
Last year was a banner year for infrastructure funds. New York-based investment firm Global Infrastructure Partners set a record when it secured $15.8-billion (U.S.) in capital commitments for its latest fund.
All that competition is putting pressure on the returns that can be earned through typical infrastructure building, while encouraging experienced players to move up the risk spectrum, or specialize in unique holdings.
Case in point: Brookfield's infrastructure group, which was founded just 10 years ago and now manages $41-billion in assets. The firm is looking to some new strategies to spur growth this year, including the launch of its first infrastructure debt fund. It bested its target of $700-million by raising $885-million right out of the gate. Infrastructure debt would be attractive to pension funds and insurers because of their long-dated contractual cash flows backed by secure infrastructure assets.
It's not the only way that the Brookfield team has sought to stand out. The firm also has a backlog of capital projects – investments needed to maintain or improve its assets – billions of dollars deep. Brookfield Infrastructure Group CEO Sam Pollock said last year that these investments are typically where the business earns its highest returns because "we're not competing to the same degree as we would an M&A opportunity where we have to go up against a number of pension plans."
And investors are getting more creative with the definition of infrastructure. At Brookfield, a big theme for the coming decade is data infrastructure. "Data is the fastest growing commodity in the world," Mr. Pollock wrote in a recent letter to his investors. "This growth is driving the need for massive investment in the networks that transmit and store data."
Some funds have also pushed the boundaries of what constitutes an infrastructure buy. After a particularly lengthy due diligence, Teachers' infrastructure group and a partner bought Britain's second-largest private crematorium operator, Westerleigh Group for its portfolio in 2016, deciding the land ownership element and revenue stream from more than 30,000 funerals each year qualified it for the portfolio.
Smoking out new opportunities
The marijuana boom is attracting a private equity sector, hungry for new asset classes.
With the world's private equity sights set on the largest targets, Canada's expertise in mid-market niches has become a competitive strength. Until the oil patch downturn, the country's massive energy and materials riches were sought after by Canadian and U.S. funds alike.
Now, the country is becoming synonymous with other fast-growing fields outside traditional commodities. The cannabis boom making headlines in the stock market, for instance, is attracting private-sector money, too.
It's the latest example of private-market investors expanding their interests into areas they previously avoided. The venture-capital arm of the pension fund OMERS, for example, was launched in 2011 and now has $800-million (Canadian) of assets under management. CPPIB invested in the development of high-end student housing and recently bought 24 properties in the United States for $1.1-billion alongside a partner.
At the same time, hedge funds looking to tap burgeoning – yet untested – sectors in pursuit of higher returns at a moment when fees are compressed. Along with cannabis, investors have similarly turned to artificial intelligence and more byzantine private debt deals and even bitcoin, as the first cryptocurrency investment fund launched in Canada.
Fundraising and investments in marijuana companies – from growers to makers of everything from tracking software to vape gear – is quickly becoming mainstream in the economy. Canada is attracting money and generating deals with acceptance of the recreational cannabis industry as legalization approaches, making the country the first in the Group of 20 to fully legalize marijuana. The market could be worth more than $8-billion within two years, according to Canaccord Genuity.
"I kind of see it as the day after Prohibition. It's the legalization of alcohol all over again, only on a bigger scale," said Ranjeev Dhillon, a lawyer at Bennett Jones in Toronto specializing in cannabis and private equity. His firm hosted a sold-out seminar on private investment in the cannabis sector in early November.
"There's a general view that Canada has a market-leading edge and first-mover advantage, and because of that people are looking to Canada as a place to park money," Mr. Dhillon said.
Canada is already home to 74 growers licensed to sell medical marijuana and more have applications in the works. When Ottawa legalizes recreational pot this year, the industry is expected to undergo massive expansions in production, wholesale, retail as well as commercial property and other services.
Doventi Capital, Nesta Holding Co., Cronos Group and Green Acre Capital are among a growing roster of cannabis-focused private equity players looking to capitalize.
In the United States, a handful of large specialist funds and large general institutional investors are also showing interest in Canada's weed sector, Mr. Dhillon said.
"As more money comes in you see more people who are coming in from outside the industry – people with backgrounds in agriculture, or pharma or retail, people with capital-markets experience. That professionalization has quelled investor concerns including in the private-equity space," he said.
Private equity has avoided some of the ballooning valuations that have characterized publicly traded cannabis companies, though some entrepreneurs are expecting to get similar bumps in the value of their companies. To show how hot the market is, the Horizons Marijuana Life Science Index, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the performance of the North American marijuana index, has surged more than 150 per cent since the start of September.
"Definitely on the grower side, it makes it more difficult because the public [licensed producers] are so inflated now and moment-driven that the private guys all feel like they should be getting the same valuation. If they don't get it they'll just threaten to go public," said Tyler Stuart, managing director of Green Acre Capital, a cannabis fund started early in 2017. As a result, Green Acre has focused more on ancillary businesses, which he calls "the picks and shovels," more than growers.
"It's less crowded, less competitive, there aren't as many institutional funds chasing those deals. So oftentimes we'll show up on a small financing and we'll be the only institution in the deal, or one of a very few."
Tom Rand speaks on CBC National news regarding the recent report on Canada's environmental record.
What Trump is doing on climate is morally reprehensible, yet offers a clear advantage to Canadian cleantech companies looking to scale. Canada's government is stepping up just when Trump steps down, providing liquidity and risk capital to Canadian companies who demonstrate an ability to compete in global markets.
Caveat: while Rand's quote is "for any industry to grow, it needs government support" the real point is is "all industries of any size today had the benefit of government support, cleantech is no different" ...
Full article here.
With the costs of climate both apparent and rising, Tom Rand (w Ken Green) talks with CBC's Peter Armstrong on who pays and why.
China has joined a number of other countries that aim to reduce, or even eliminate, gasoline-powered cars. Feasible? What does this mean for Canada? Tom Rand discusses issue (w Ken Green) with Peter Armstrong on CBC's On the Money.
As recent hurricanes focus attention on climate risk, some debate a question of priority: adaptation vs mitigation? Rand argues there is no reasonable notion of adaptation without a prior assumption of deep mitigation. Discussion (w Ken Green) with CBC's Peter Armstrong.
BRANTFORD, Ontario, Aug. 9, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- GreenMantra Technologies, a rapidly growing clean technology company that produces high-value polymers from waste plastics, will receive $2.2 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to be used toward construction of a demonstration plant that will convert waste polystyrene into modified styrenic polymers for use in inks, foam insulation and other applications.
GreenMantra team, local Members of Parliament Bryan May and Marwan Tabbara, and the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announces $15.5M in funding for six companies, including GreenMantra Technologies, through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)
The funding was announced yesterday by the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, during a ceremony at GreenMantra's headquarters in Brantford, Ontario.
"We are thrilled that SDTC will provide a portion of the capital necessary for this important project," said Kousay Said, GreenMantra president and chief executive officer. "This pilot plant will enable us to scale up our patent-pending process for sustainably reusing of one of the world's least recycled plastics."
"As part of our government's investments in clean technology and commitment to protecting the planet, we are pleased to support this next generation of GreenMantra's sustainable technology," said Minister Bains. "Transforming plastic waste into commercially viable products will not only drive innovation in sustainable reuse of waste materials, it also creates middle-class jobs in Ontario's growing clean technology sector."
Polystyrene plastic in foam and solid form is commonly used in consumer products, food and product packaging and many other applications. It is one of the world's fastest growing solid wastes, yet has one of the lowest recycling rates of all plastics with an estimated 95 percent either disposed of in landfills or incinerated.
Using a proprietary catalyst and unique conversion process, GreenMantra Technologies has converted waste polystyrene foam into useful polymers on a laboratory scale. The demonstration plant, to be constructed at GreenMantra's existing manufacturing complex in Brantford, will have an anticipated initial annual capacity of 1,000 metric tons per year. This will provide an ample supply of converted modified styrenic polymers for trialing in end-use applications and potential initial commercial sales. The design and engineering of the new facility will begin this year, with construction starting in 2018.
GreenMantra currently converts waste polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, such as film, bottle caps and food containers, into specialty synthetic waxes. These waxes are used in various applications in the coatings, plastics processing, adhesives, roofing and paving industries.
SDTC in 2014 provided GreenMantra Technologies with a $2 million funding to help fund construction of the plant that produces these waxes.
GreenMantra is actively designing new technologies, processes, and products with a focus on driving the circular economy of plastics. It has received significant industry recognition for its revolutionary technology. It was recently named one of the world's top 100 companies in clean technology by CleanTech Group, a leading industry research firm, and last year received a Gold Award for Green Technology as part of the R&D100 Awards program.
Based in Brantford, Ontario, GreenMantra™ Technologies utilizes a proprietary thermo-catalytic system and patented process to cost-effectively convert and "up-cycle" waste plastics, including hard-to-recycle materials such as grocery bags and film, into high-value waxes and other specialty chemicals. These materials have a broad range of applications in the coatings, plastics processing, adhesives, roofing and paving industries. More information on the company, its products and its innovative technology can be found at www.greenmantra.ca
VW, and others, got caught cheating on diesel emission tests. Paris seeks to ban diesel cars. Meantime, heavy-duty trucks continue to roll on North American Highways and Canada will soon see the opening of first new refinery in decades: a modern CO2-sequestering behemoth in Edmonton.
Given these contradictory signals, what's the future of diesel?
In the face of US backing off the Paris Accord, are there increased economic opportunities for Canada? Hydrostor's CEO Curt VanWalleghem makes the case.
Bloomberg TV Canada talks to Murray McCaig, Managing Partner at ArcTern Ventures about what Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement mean for Canada and it’s position in the global clean tech market.
Rand takes on another round with Fraser Institute's Ken Green, this time on the recent evisceration of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).