Energy and Environment

In Ontario, the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA) estimates the energy and environment sectors are worth $8B in annual revenues and $1B in export. One of the key drivers for innovation and stimulation of economic growth is new legislation: the Green Energy and Green Economy Act which was enacted into legislation in 2009 and the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act which was enacted in 2010.

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) has been a significant player in the energy sector for years, investing approximately $37M since 2005 in developing clean energy technologies that directly affect how we live, work, move, the fuels we use, and energy end-use technologies, as well as energy conversion, and transmission and distribution technologies. Industry co-investment in these research and development projects totals over $65M. A $10M investment to further solar, hydrogen and conservation and demand management technologies has been made through OCE’s Special Energy Fund (SEF) since 2008. 

OCE’s investment in environmental technologies dates back to its inception, investing close to $126M which has been leveraged to well over $250M through partner contributions. There are a number of major issues facing this sector with many stakeholder groups involved: increasing populations into urban areas; aging infrastructure; and climate change impacts. To that end, OCE has worked with industry, academia and all levels of government to build communities of interest in every aspect of environmental technology including:

  • Clean Water Technologies – Drinking water, wastewater and source water protection
  • Clean Air Technologies – Air quality (indoor and outdoor) and environmental health
  • Sustainable Agriculture – Greenhouse industry and agricultural bio-products including viticulture
  • Sustainable Infrastructure – Brownfield remediation; buried infrastructure; green buildings; technologies for sustainable communities
  • Waste Management – Landfill waste diversion; waste minimization
  • Resource Management – Mining and mineral exploration; forest management; integrated information management systems

Of particular note is Ontario’s water industry, with 900 firms and 22,000 employees, which covers the full spectrum of leading water technology and service providers. Ontario is also a global leader in developing clean water innovation and management through the expertise in its universities and colleges. Since 2004, OCE has invested more than $4.3 million in 45 water-related projects that have engaged 55 research experts, and approximately 100 college and university students. OCE’s participation has also attracted an additional $5.83 million in follow-on investment.

Over the past few years OCE has developed a holistic framework that recognizes the inter-relationship of energy, water, climate change, effective use of resources, and land use for food and agriculture. We recognize the need for creative financing and integration of information and communication technologies to better manage and support asset management and development of smarter cities and communities.

Recent Successes in this Area

Greentec

October 19, 2017

More efficient e-waste recycling solutions are urgently needed. Greentec and a research team at Conestoga are taking up the challenge.

This leading Cambridge-based processor of electronic waste (e-waste) has teamed up with a local college to develop intelligent robotic solutions for more efficient e-waste recycling. 

With rapid advances in cellphone, computer and television technology, e-waste is the fastest-growing sector of solid waste, generating 40 to 50 million tons worldwide annually. But only 15 to 20 per cent of e-waste is currently recycled, meaning much of it ends up in landfills, where toxic materials can leach into the environment. 

More efficient e-waste recycling solutions are urgently needed, so Greentec and a research team at Conestoga are taking up the challenge. Supported by OCE’s Voucher for Innovation and Productivity II (VIP II) program, they developed a robotic cutting tool for dismantling and recycling Flat Panel Displays (FPDs) that is five times faster than manual processing. FPDs contain precious metals but also toxic lead and mercury, making the valuable metals difficult to extract. The new system enables operators to safely separate the toxic components and recover more material that can be sold and re-used. 

In a follow-up VIP I project, the team developed a robotic solution for dismantling and recycling computer hard drives of various sizes while removing more valuable materials than the traditional method of shredding. 

Greentec and Conestoga are continuing their collaboration in a new five-semester VIP II project to develop a fully automated robotic system for FPD recycling, using sophisticated machine learning algorithms to sort and disassemble FPDs of all models and types. This advance is expected to significantly increase processing capacity, profits and employee safety for Greentec and, once commercialized, benefit Ontario manufacturers and e-waste processors while greatly reducing e-waste in landfills.