You might be surprised.
The front-line in the Canadian battle for net zero is in the province most villified for causing carbon pollution and climate change.
For the past 15 years, Dan Balaban, his brother Jordan and a dedicated team of talented operators have been pioneering the renewable energy business from their base in Alberta. Their company Greengate Power recently launched the largest solar project in Canadian history with funding from a large Danish institutional investor. The Travers project came on line this year, consisting of 1.3 million solar panels spread out over 3,000 acres of farmland in southern Alberta. It will produce 465 megawatts of energy, enough to power more than 150,000 homes.
What Greengate has put into the world is far from a complete solution, but it's a very big start. And its very existence in the heart of oil, gas and coal country stands as a perhaps ironic demonstration to all impact entrepreneurs in Canada of what is possible.
Dan is not a green-zealot. He is not against the sensible use and exploitation of the massive reserves of hydrocarbons and coal in the province. He is a pragmatist and visionary who took a view a while ago that our sunny and windy province could play a role in the energy security of the nation. Renewables are an important part of the energy transition but not the only part.
The way we have been approaching sustainability might be itself not very sustainable.
A sometimes-well meaning global ESG movement (environmental-social-governance) has been successfully starving much of the Canadian energy sector of much needed investment. It's not a matter of simply turning off the taps one day and expecting new technologies to take up the growing demand for energy the next. The transition needs to be thoughtful and urgent. It is, after all, a transition.
As an impact entrepreneur, Dan's mission is "energy for a net zero future". He is alive to realize his potential to make a big positive impact, make money and do good at scale. He intends to change the narrative about the energy industry, Alberta and the very idea of an impact venture. As Mac Van Wielingen has been arguing repeatedly, ESG is better thought of E-ESG. Forsaking social and environmental factors solely for economics does not work to sustain the human race and neither does foresaking the economic.
The vitality of nature, diverse and inclusive communities and a healthy economy are compatible drives.
That trifecta is a difficult challenge that requires that we tap some of our natural strengths and moderate some of our historical weaknesses. Canada is a resource-rich branch-plant economy and former colonial nation. There is still a pesky, and sometimes crippling, cultural residue of the national inferiority complex–that somehow we are not good enough to compete at a global standard. Impact and innovation are "not out there".
We don't have to wait for solutions to come from outside our own borders. We have the genious and grit to compete in any market, bringing world-class solutions to a world that greatly needs it. Dan and his team team are out there shining that very light, doing so from the dark, in an area that many Canadians would not even think to look.
This is a world we can lead.