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Breaking down Ottawa’s $15-billion clean-economy spend

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his mask as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson answers a reporter's question during an announcement on the government's updated climate change plan, in the Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Canadian Press/Justin Tang
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On Friday, the federal government released its plan to turn Canada into a net-zero-emissions economy. Ottawa has earmarked $15 billion for the strategy, most of which will be doled out over the next 10 years and delivered through a host of new strategies aimed at incentivising companies and consumers to help slow global warming. Here’s how government plans to spend the money: 

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$3 billion for the SIF: The plan introduces a new Net Zero Accelerator within the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which has become the Liberal government’s go-to for its industrial priorities du jour. The program will target projects that help reduce industrial emissions, green the aerospace and automobile-manufacturing sectors and develop the domestic battery supply chain. Ottawa has allocated just under $230 million to pure cleantech projects from the $2.6 billion it’s assigned so far, according to The Logic‘s ongoing analysis; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada takes a more expansive view, touting the emissions-reduction potential of industrial efforts like ArcelorMittal’s steel plant overhauls and the new Elysis aluminium facility. During the pandemic, the federal government has used the SIF to back COVID-19 treatment projects at AbCellera, Medicago and Precision NanoSystems, among others.

$287 million for EV consumers: The government is extending its incentive program for zero-emission cars and trucks until March 2022. The program, which offers a $5,000 rebate to consumers who buy an electric vehicle, has been popular. It originally launched in May 2019 and paid out 75 per cent of its initial $300-million budget within 15 months. The incentive is meant to help Canada reach its targets of having electric vehicles represent 10 per cent of new car sales by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040. Ottawa also plans to spend $1.5 billion through the Canada Infrastructure Bank for electric buses, with the aim of procuring 5,000 zero-emission public-transit school buses. The funding could benefit the growing network of Canadian startups and scale-ups working on electric-bus technology, including New Flyer Industries in Winnipeg and Lion Electric, based in Saint-Jérôme, Que. 

$964 million for the smart grid: Canada needs to produce two to three times more clean power by 2050 than it does now, according to the plan. To help get there, it aims to spend close to a billion over four years on “smart renewable energy and grid modernization projects.” As an example, the plan highlights an existing partnership between the federal government, Siemens Canada and power utilities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that’s developing smart-grid technology to improve how the provinces manage their energy. The government also plans to spend another $300 million over five years to help rural, remote and Indigenous communities transition from diesel to clean energy by 2030. 

$165.7 million for agtech: The funding is meant to help farmers develop new technologies to green their operations and also give them resources to adopt existing technology. “Access to the latest clean technology will help maintain competitiveness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indirectly, technology developers will also benefit through increased product purchasing,” the plan reads. The government is also launching a $98.4-million Natural Climate Solutions for Agriculture Fund, though most of the money for the initiative has already been announced. 

$750 million for oil and gas companies: Companies can tap into the Emissions Reduction Fund to help finance efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The government will forgive up to 50 per cent of the cost of such projects. 

$750 million for Sustainable Development Technology Canada: SDTC will deliver the money over five years to help finance early-stage cleantech firms. The funding is nearly twice as much as Ottawa allocated to SDTC for the cleantech sector in the 2017 budget. At the time, it also committed $600 million to BDC Capital for a new cleantech investment fund, which has strained to find investment opportunities; Friday’s announcement does not include new money for BDC.