Editorial: Turning waste into a solution
Investors are recognizing the potential of the bioeconomy
By Ellen Cools
This year’s Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) Conference and AGM was unlike any other, taking place online from Sept. 22 to Sept. 24. Thanks to COVID-19, Canadian Biomass and WPAC had to pivot to bring the annual conference to life in a way that would be safe for everyone: virtually. Like many other organizations now know, putting on a virtual event is quite different from a live event. While networking opportunities are limited on a virtual platform, the upside is that the conference can reach a wider audience.
In fact, nearly 500 people from around the world attended this year’s conference to learn more about wood pellets as a source of “Responsible, Renewable Clean Energy” – WPAC’s new tagline. The event was a huge success, with many attendees providing positive feedback and asking for copies of the speakers’ presentations to share with their colleagues.
The main takeaway for me was just how much potential there is for turning waste into a solution, to borrow the phrase from Jason Fisher, vice-president of strategic partnerships and corporate responsibility at Pinnacle Renewable Energy and one of the presenters at this year’s event. As the effects of climate change become more obvious and negatively impact society, investors and government will have to recognize and confront the uncertainty it brings. This means they will be looking for stable, sustainable sources of energy, such as wood pellets, William Strauss, president and founder of FutureMetrics, said in his presentation (read more about the conference here).
It’s evident that more and more investors, particularly government, have started recognizing the potential of the bioeconomy in the past year or two. William Bardosh, CEO of TerraVerdae Bioworks, remembers when this wasn’t the case. When the company started in 2009, the idea of producing natural biodegradable bioplastics was “quaint” to many people, and there was little investment or capital, he says. But, the company recently received $4.5 million in grants from several groups, including Natural Resources Canada, to expand its ability to develop natural, biodegradable bioplastics. “I’m really amazed at the shift that’s gone on over the last 18-24 months,” he says here.
More recently, in August, the federal government announced $1.3 million in funding for FPInnovations to develop disposable, biodegradable face masks to protect against COVID-19. Doug Singbeil, FPInnovation’s industrial sector leader for bioproducts, says this project proves the forest industry and bioeconomy can help Canada through the pandemic, and helps the industry continue to find ways to make sustainable, bio-sourced products.
Moving forward, it’s critical that government continue to support the bioeconomy and make it a key part of Canada’s low-carbon future. With associations like WPAC advocating for our industry and raising awareness about wood pellets’ role in fighting climate change, I feel confident we will continue to see growing support and investment from decision-makers.