It’s the time of year when most of Manitoba is typically covered in white stuff. But forget the snow: the colour that’s top of mind for many Manitoba businesses year-round is actually green.
Manitoba’s green advantage is key to attracting business to and within the province, with low electricity rates thanks to reliable, local, clean renewable resources, plus incentives and programs that help companies reduce greenhouse gases and their carbon footprint, not to mention new opportunities through a number of environmentally friendly emerging sectors.
Incorporating green strategies into every aspect of business — and ensuring customers, staff and everyone else understands the benefits of doing so — is a challenge many are embracing.
“In Manitoba we have about 22,000 workers that have some sort of task that has to do with the environment. There are over 250 different job titles related to the environment, and it just keeps growing,” says Jack Winram, executive director of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA), the non-profit, member-based industry association that works to advance environmental and clean technology opportunities through networking, education and member support. As a provincial sector council, MEIA also offers learning sessions, training programs, conferences, special events, project partnerships and more to help members find solutions to environmental challenges.
Today, more than 97 per cent of electricity generated in Manitoba comes from reliable, clean renewable resources including wind farms, solar panels and hydroelectric dams — making Manitoba’s electricity system one of the world’s cleanest and greenest.
“Corporations and businesses are taking a look at the map and seeing where energy is being generated that’s green, and Manitoba stands out as both green and affordable,” Winram says. “Industries are kicking tires in Manitoba and some have made announcements to possibly set up here, whether it be manufacturing green hydrogen or things like solar panels. It’s a great business opportunity for Manitoba.”
Manitoba’s commitment to green initiatives was highlighted in July when the province launched its new clean energy roadmap, with a goal to ensure government, communities and industry make strategic investments in the energy sector for sustainable economic growth. The roadmap provides direction for the province to position itself for economic opportunities thanks to its clean energy advantages, while attracting investment and jobs and advancing climate goals, energy affordability, electricity modernization and Indigenous participation.
With the roadmap announcement, the need for Manitoba to double — or possibly even triple — its hydro-generating capacity was made known, along with potential solutions, such as using more wind power. Despite the province’s already impressive 97 per cent non-emitting electrical generation, it will have a lot of work to do to hit the capacity demands on the electric infrastructure that are coming with a greener net-zero economy.
“There’s an acknowledgment that building Manitoba’s traditional hydroelectric dams is more of a long-term thing than short-term, and they’re getting too expensive,” Winram says. “So looking at the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency is smart but so is being agnostic to where we purchase power from, as long as it’s clean and has a friendly environmental footprint.”
The opportunity for Manitoba’s Indigenous communities to participate in clean energy projects, creating sustained economic benefits for remote and Indigenous communities and supporting reconciliation, is another key provincial goal. To help businesses gain a deeper understanding of how to engage with Indigenous peoples and enhance trust and business relationships, one of several training courses MEIA offers for industry folks is Indigenous Economic Engagement training.
“Being the sector council for natural resources, energy and environment, it’s very important that we’re inclusive of Indigenous communities, especially in mining development and resource development,” Winram explains. “Our course is taught by a First Nation owned organization and talks about how to engage economically with First Nations, what that engagement looks like and what those joint ventures and partnerships look like.”
Helping Manitoba in its goals to be greener, Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), the federal government department that diversifies the economy across the prairies, has identified Clean Technologies/Clean Resources as one of its priority sectors. PrairiesCan is providing funding for businesses in this area, along with promoting the federal Building a Green Prairie Economy Act. The act calls for developing a framework to enhance local collaboration and engagement between federal and prairie partners to build a green economy in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, promoting economic stability, growth and employment.
The province is also embracing several emerging sectors that fall under the green category and open up new opportunities for business, such as bio-products, freshwater lake management, electric vehicles and eco-tourism. Manitoba has an opportunity to be a worldwide leader in energy efficiency, and investment in being green is a business opportunity that can’t be ignored, Winram says.
“If we’re looking at economic growth and creating jobs, and keeping our young people from moving away from Manitoba for better opportunities, we need to be making these investments where we have this advantage,” he explains.
“We have an advantage in green electricity, and we have an advantage in critical minerals, to complement our advantage in other areas like manufacturing and agriculture. This is where we need to make the investments for Manitoba.” ■
Read the rest of the Winter 2023 MBiz Magazine here.