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905 electricity distributors PowerStream add new transformer to accommodate growth, will hire

PowerStream, an electricity distributor jointly owned by the cities of Vaughan, Markham and Barrie, last week opened the first new transformer constructed in its service territory since 2002. The facility, named the Robert Fabro Transformer Station after a long-serving employee of PowerStream's predecessor company, Markham Hydro, will have enough capacity to serve 40,000 homes.

According to information supplied by Powerstream spokesperson Eric Fagan, the company owns 11 such facilities, more "transmission grid direct-connect transformer stations than any other municipally owned electricity distribution company in Ontario," and is the second-largest municipally owned electricity distributor in the province.

Fagan says that the company serves roughly 325,000 consumers now, and is consistently adding roughly 6,000-8,000 new customers per year. He chalks the growth up to a combination of the large-scale development taking place in the area north of Toronto served by the company and to an aggressive program that attracts condo building owners by offering to retrofit their properties with individual-unit metering.

Currently, the company employs 500 staff. And while Fagan says they attempt to keep human resources costs low in order to deliver better prices to consumers, the company is often hiring to accommodate the constant growth. In particular, he says, attempting to meet load reduction targets mandated by provincial authorities next year will mean substantial hiring in the conservation department of the company.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Eric Fagan, Director of Corporate Communications, PowerStream

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].

Industrial energy efficiency program will create 5,500 green jobs

Industrial Accelerator, a program announced last week by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to help spur on energy efficiency in the industrial sector, should create 5,500 green jobs province wide, the regulator says.

The program offers incentives to 45 large industrial companies who are "direct-connect" companies -- that is, they are directly connected to the energy transmission system -- to invest in retrofits of their facilities to enhance energy efficiency. According to Ben Chin, VP of Communications with the OPA, the job creation number is an estimate from the provincial finance ministry based on the effect of the injection of capital into green energy projects. "These are process changes," Chin says. "The jobs that will be created start with engineers to design a project right down to labourers to build it and maintain it."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ben Chin, Vice President of Communications, Ontario Power Authority

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].



Sustainability innovators Zerofootprint see 400% quarterly growth -- launching new initiatives

Earlier this year, Zerofootprint introduced a new innovation: the "Talking Plug." It's an outlet that can monitor a building's energy use — down to the level of individual appliances — and show how much power is being drawn and how much it costs. It could also allow a person to shut off individual outlets remotely, and instantly see the savings in energy and dollars.

That product, which drew notice via an outline of the technology in Forbes written by Zerofootprint founder and CEO Ron Dembo, was just among the latest of dozens of initiatives the company has launched. "We're essentially a about measurement," Dembo says, "once you measure energy use you can see how it compares to others and actually reduce it."

The company launched as a non-profit in 2005, but launched a for-profit segment to manage its Velo carbon-footprint-measurement software two years ago. From its start in 2008, Dembo says the company has grown to 25 office staff today (noting, however, that much of the company's work -- design, manufacturing, PR — is outsourced, so employment might not be the best measure of growth). "Eseentially, in the first quarter of this year, we've generated as much revenue as we did in all of last year," he says. "And back then, it was about the same -- over the year before, about a factor of four. Though I can't imagine we'll sustain quite that pace for too long."

Unless, of course, the right customers come to the table. Dembo says widespread sales of the Talking Plug await a large order of a few hundred thousand to make production scalable. He's hoping the Ontario government will see the value of its interface for use with the smart meters currently hooked up to residential hydro accounts. "We could get this out quickly -- with or without the smart plugs -- just by tapping into the smart meters," he says. "The provincial government could create an industry here."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ron Dembo, founder and CEO, Zerofootprint

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Mississauga fuel innovators Woodland Biofuels gets $4 million for demonstration plant

The Mississauga company Woodland Biofuels has patented a technology it says can produce clean-burning automotive fuel from virtually any type of biomass -- including wood and agricultural waste. The process eliminates the need to burn food products such as corn to create ethanol.

Earlier this month the provincial government gave the company a grant of $4 million to build a demonstration facility, expected to be located at the University of Western Ontario's Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, to prove the efficacy of the groundbreaking innovation in waste disposal and clean energy.

"Thanks to Ontario's support we can build a plant that we anticipate will confirm our ability to successfully produce ethanol from renewable waste with breakthrough efficiency. We expect to be, by a significant margin, the lowest cost producer of automotive fuel in North America," said Greg Nuttall, President and CEO of Woodland, in a statement welcoming the investment. "This will not only put Ontario in the front of the global race to find an alternative to fossil fuels but ultimately will also provide Ontario with significant economic and environmental benefits. We are grateful for the extraordinary level of support provided by the province."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Greg Nuttal, President & CEO, Woodland Biofuels; Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation

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Preloved hires for innovative new "pop-up shop" -- still hiring now

For a few years now, there's been a trend in retail to introduce "pop-up shops" -- locations that open on month-to-month or short term leases to introduce a store and its new products to a new area. The concept was embraced this week by local retailers Preloved, who opened a new and likely temporary location at 230 Danforth Ave.

"I only lasted 45 minutes before I placed a frantic call over to our Queen Street location for back-up staff!" Preloved CEO and founder Julia Grieve said in an email release. According to company spokesperson Ashley Parr, that frantic call has led to hiring -- and the shop is still hiring now.

Though this was Preloved's first foray into pop-up retail (according to Parr, it won't be their last), the shop has long had a presence in Toronto as a retailer of fashions remade from vintage clothing. The store and label were founded by Grieve in Toronto in 1995, and since then has grown to open locations in Montreal and Australia, employing between 40-60 people, according to Parr.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ashley Parr, Warehouse Manager, Preloved

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].


NCP Northland Capital Partners grows from 11 to 51 staff since January, will add 20 more this summer

Founded just 18 months ago, the boutique brokerage house then known as Sandfire Securities attracted buzz from the very start. By January, after Northland Bankcom purchased a stake, they had 11 employees. Today, according to Chief Operations Officer Jonathan Robinson, they are at 51 staff and expect to hire another 20 people by the end of August.

"And it's not just staffing," Robinson says, pointing to the size and volume of recent transactions, "we just completed a $21 million deal [on June 11]. We've become, in the past three months, the largest boutique brokerage house on the TSX."

That growth has led to some recent changes — last week the firm announced it was rebranding itself NCP Northland Capital Partners and launched a new website. To go with its new online home, NCP has also moved into an expanded headquarters at First Canadian Place at the heart of the financial district.

Asked what's been driving the growth, Robinson points to the quality of the staff they've attracted, "The brokerage business is based on relationships," he says, and adds that they in turn has attracted even more excellent people. "Everyone wants to get in early on the ground floor of a successful brokerage," he says. In the immediate future, the company will expand its areas of service -- particularly into oil and gas, perhaps -- and increase distribution to Western Europe and Asia.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jonathan Robinson, Chief Operations Officer, NCP Northland Capital Partners

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Morgan Solar's innovative tech draws $1.86 million in public investment, will create 20 new jobs

In February, writer Piali Roy reported for Yonge Street on an innovative solar technology being developed by Morgan Solar, run by brothers John Paul and Nicolas Morgan. Their panels would employ an innovative technology called Light Guide Solar Optic, which they say would make panels cheaper and more durable. "The family-run business sees itself as a game-changer," Roy wrote.

Recently the Ontario government indicated it might see Morgan Solar the same way: last month the Ministry of Research and Innovation announced an investment of $1.86 million in Morgan Solar's research, through its Innovation Demonstration Fund. The money will help the company refine prototypes and demonstrate the technology's efficacy. The new dollars are expected to create 20 new jobs.

Research and Innovation minister John Milloy cited the province's commitment to making the province a North American clean energy sector leader in making the announcement. "By helping Morgan Solar we are delivering on this vision while creating good jobs for Ontario families in a growing industry," Milloy said.

Morgan Solar VP Nicolas Morgan said the dollars would bring his company's product closer to market. "With Ontario's support we can take another step toward achieving our goal of making solar energy one of the most widely used and affordable power sources in the world."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation

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Solar inverter manufacturing will create 50 new jobs at Siemens GTA plant

The announcements about green jobs in Ontario just keep coming as the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) program gears up. This week Siemens Canada announced that it would create 50 jobs at its Burlington manufacturing facility by getting into the solar energy market. The Canadian division of the large multinational energy and healthcare company will begin producing Photovoltaic (PV) inverters in Burlington. Production is to begin ramping up immediately, with the first inverters ready for delivery by November of this year.

The move takes advantage of a provision of the FiT legislation that requires local manufacturing and technology to be used in new solar installations under the program. "Siemens' goal is to help our customers setup Solar PV installations which meet the requirements of the Ontario government's recently announced FiT program," said Siemens VP Joris Myny in a statement.

The provincial government, for its part, hoped for just this sort of local-industry boosting when it put forward the legislation -- not just creating a new market for green energy in the province, but building Ontario as a major green energy industrial centre. "We welcome Siemens' investment, which will help Ontario companies meet domestic content requirements, a very important component in developing the solar industry here in the province," said Sandra Pupatello, provincial minister of economic development.

The FiT program pays producers who feed the electrical grid with renewable energy premium rate guarantees for 20 years.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: DL Leslie, Director of Media Relations, Siemens Canada

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After 75 years, Goodwill keeps creating new jobs -- Etobicoke store opens, hires 30

Most people know the organization Goodwill for its second-hand stores -- places where you can donate old clothes and household goods rather than landfilling them, and places where you can find bargains on used goods, too.

But for the 75 years of its existence, the charitable organization has been primarily in the business of employment -- it was created with a mandate to "create work opportunities and skills development for people facing serious barriers to employment." Those barriers, according to Goodwill's Toronto communications advisor Julia Dyck, can include lack of experience, youth, language barriers, disabilites and a host of other obstacles.

As it celebrates its diamond anniversary, the charity opened a new store and drive-through donation centre in Toronto this week in Etobicoke, at 871 Islington Avenue just south of the Queensway. The story will create 30 new jobs in the community.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Julia Dyck, Advisor, Communications and External Relations, Goodwill Greater Toronto

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].

Bell Canada announces innovative "green data centre" in Markham, is hiring

Using green power and chilled water to run critical data systems, and a heat recapture system that will increase efficiency and heat the community, are among the innovations announced by Bell Canada June 3 for its new "green data centre." The 50,000-square-foot facility, to be located in Markham, Ontario, will house thousands of data servers for the company's Business Markets division.

The innovative energy features are provided through a partnership with Markham District Energy. The new facility will "represent the state of the art in terms of both data hosting technology and environmental sustainability," Stéphane Boisvert, president of Bell Business Markets, said in a statement. "Bell is eager to leverage MDE's highly efficient and fully redundant energy infrastructure to reduce Bell's energy footprint, while also providing unique opportunities such as capturing the significant heat generated by large-scale data centre operations for use in community heating."

Although a Bell Canada media relations spokesperson said that information about the number of employees who will work at the new facility is currently unavailable, the company is hiring in the Toronto area. According to its website, Bell Canada has at least 31 jobs listed as available in the GTA.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Julie Smithers, Bell Media Relations

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].

Boutique cycling company Beater Bikes surveys future, sees growth online

"Doesn't everyone want to design a bike?" asks David Chant, in explaining how he came to launch his boutique bicycle company Beater Bikes in the summer of 2009. The self-described "bike nerd" -- who owns an assortment of high end pedal-powered vehicles -- felt that there was a particular niche waiting to be filled. A quality bike built for city driving -- ready to go with fenders and chain guards -- that would ride well but be priced low enough that you "wouldn't have to worry about locking it up on the corner."

After a year or so of designing and learning the ins and outs of contracting manufacturing in Europe (and a two-month shipping delay in Amsterdam), his first shipment of bikes arrived late last summer. The ladies model sold out within months, and, as Chant says, "the bikes are flying out the door -- we even have a waiting list for the women's model." Is this success? "It's not bad for a one-man operation selling bikes out of an art gallery," he says.

Chant already has his eye on next spring, when he plans to launch a new and improved model. To that end, he's conducting a survey online right now to see what people are looking for in a bike. Chant says he sees Beater Bikes' future in "going a bit more international" -- doing most of his sales through e-commerce.

Still, as he speaks, it's clear he sees it as much as a calling as an empire-in-the-making. "I love bikes and I want more people in Toronto to ride them. Putting more bikes on the road is my form of advocacy."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: David Chant, Owner, Beater Bikes

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].



Prize-winning innovators Skymeter could revolutionize parking -- and eliminate traffic

The holy grail of the international traffic industry is eliminating gridlock. With a technology that Wired magazine recently named as key to accomplishing that lofty goal, Toronto start-up Skymeter Corporation recently won the top prize for innovation at the prestigious Intertraffic Innovation Awards in Amsterdam.

The company's Skymeter product is a GPS-based road-use meter that is currently used in Winnipeg to bill drivers for parking (on a no-tag-necessary, by-the-minute system that eliminates the risk of parking tickets). Similar applications are in the works elsewhere, but the application of the technology that's really turning heads is its possible use for congestion charging: its GPS technology would allow accurate, hassle-free billing for different streets or zones at different times of day.

According to Skymeter CEO Kamal Hassan, the use of Skymeter for congestion charging has already been tested and proved effective (in a commissioned project for Cisco Korea. He says that such uses are among "about six groups in our pipeline" that are ready to place large orders.

The company was founded in 2006 -- the realization of an idea founder Bern Grush had after getting a parking ticket and wondering why his car wasn't smart enough to know when its time was up and feed the meter itself. Together with Hassan and company CTO Preet Khalsa, Grush developed a metering technology based on GPS that, according to Hassan, "takes readings from the car and turns them into financial transactions, while protecting the privacy of the driver." Since launching in 2006, the company has grown from the three founders to employ 12 people.

In addition to the contract in Winnipeg, Skymeter notably has an R&D contract with the European Union. Expecting large orders to begin coming in this year, the company is currently seeking financing to ramp up production.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Kamal Hassan, CEO, Skymeter Corporation

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected]


600%+ employment growth demonstrates energy co-op's success

If you've seen the big windmill on the CNE grounds near the Gardiner Expressway, you're familiar with the work of the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC). The not-for-profit cooperative set up Windshare, the for-profit company that now owns and manages North America's first urban wind turbine.

Now TREC has announced a new initiative, SolarShare, one of six projects it currently has in development. SolarShare follows the same business model as Windshare did -- as TREC Executive Director Judy Lipp puts it, her organization's mandate is to "enable Ontarians to become not just consumers of green energy, but to invest in it." It does so by acting as an incubator for renewable energy cooperative companies that finance the building of a project and then derive revenue from it.

TREC has seen business grow since its launch in 1998, but has especially felt a boost since the announcement of the provincial government's Feed-In Tariff program two years ago. As a measure that growth, Lipp points out that the cooperative has gone from 1.5 staff members to 10 employees in the past two years.

Lipp expects the first of SolarShare's projects to be up and running by the end of 2010. Currently, TREC is scouting a suitable location for a Toronto solar farm (a hoped-for site at the CNE recently fell through due to details of provincial regulations). Once a suitable location is identified, she says, raising capital and beginning building should take less than a few months.

Author: Edward Keenan
Source: Judy Lipp, Executive Director, Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative

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Local offset company Carbonzero lands reforestation credits after doubling staff in past year

A couple weeks ago, local carbon-offset sales organization Carbonzero announced the purchase of 10,000 ERUs from a British Columbia reforestation project from Carbon Friendly. It is the first forestry project in the growing company's portfolio, and a diversification that demonstrates the growing success of the enterprise.

Founded five years ago by company President Howie Chong "out of the basement of his parents house," according to Carbonzero COO Dan Fraleigh, the company has grown steadily as awareness of global warming has led to an increase in interest in carbon offsetting. Fraleigh says the company has doubled its staff to 8-10 employees in the past year and seen business grow by "a couple hundred per cent" during the same period -- a year in which a Suzuki Foundation study ranked Carbonzero the number one offsetting firm in Canada.

Fraleigh says it is the careful standards that helped the company achieve that recognition that have previously kept it out of the forestry project market. "The standards just weren't there [previously] for us to ensure the carbon reductions were there year after year," he says.

Among the company's most high-profile clients recently is TD North America, who purchased enough credits from carbonzero and other vendors to declare their global operations carbon neutral. Fraleigh says that in the immediate future, the company plans a relaunch of its website and branding.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dan Fraleigh, Chief Operations Officer, Carbonzero


Weeks after launching, LumiSmart wins innovation award, sees "hundreds of new jobs"

Just a few weeks ago, we reported on the launch of Cavet Technologies and its new LumiSmart Intelligent Lighting Controller, and already it's seeing accolades roll in and business lining up.

At the Canadian Advanced Technological Alliance Innovation Awards on May 19, Cavet received the award for Technology Commercialization. "What this means is we're getting traction," says company co-founder and Executive VP David Berg. "It means that we've brought a product to market that's going to mean something."

Berg says that in the weeks since the LumiSmart lighting system launched, they have received expressions of interest from potential buyers in more than 20 countries. "I can't get into specific numbers right now... but we expect this is going to result in substantial orders that will result in hundreds of jobs here in Toronto." Berg says that the environmentally friendly, energy-saving technology has the advantage of saving any company that implements it money. "People fundamentally understand that saving power is something that effects your bottom line."

Berg emphasizes that the company is proud to be local. "This is Canadian technology, designed in Canada and manufactured in Canada for the rest of the world."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: David Berg, Executive vice President of Product Management and Engineering, Cavet Technologies
189 sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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