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How Canadian Manufacturers Can Find Renewable Energy Sources

How Canadian Manufacturers Can Find Renewable Energy Sources

There’s no question that renewable energy is the future of manufacturing. The question is how that future should play out from one manufacturer to another.

There’s no question that renewable energy is the future of manufacturing. The question is how that future should play out from one manufacturer to another.

Regardless of the customer base they serve, manufacturers rely on some kind of process heating system to turn raw materials into paper, plastics, metal, paper or other product. Traditionally, that meant fossil fuels — until it became abundantly clear that the industry had to change.

Rising temperatures, oil spills and increased air pollution are just some of the negative impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. According to a 2021 report from the United Nations’ Environment Program, we are globally on track to product more than double the amount of coal, oil and gas within the next eight years than we can burn it we want to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees C.

Unfortunately, this “production gap” hasn’t really changed since the same research was conducted in 2019, so the time to act is now. For Canadian manufacturers, that means reducing the amount of energy they use and increase its efficiency.

Fortunately, Canada is demonstrating leadership in renewable energy. As data from InvestCanada shows, we rank third globally in the production of hydroelectricity. Overall, we get 82% of our electricity from sources that don’t involve greenhouse gas emissions. Yet energy supply from renewable sources is at 16.2%, so we still have room to improve.

Choosing the right renewable energy sources will depend on some the unique characteristics of a particular manufacturer and its business objectives. One of the factors might be the raw materials it tends to use, such as crops, iron ore, oil or trees.

There may be specific consideration based upon the company’s production processes, and how energy need to be generated, supplied, transferred, contained and recovered.

What follows is an overview of some of the most common renewable energy sources and where they’re at in terms of development and adoption:

Solar Thermal Systems

By heating and circulating heat-transfer fluid to produce steam that get converted through a turbine, manufacturers can effectively power generators to produce the electricity they need.

This form of renewable energy has advanced considerably over the past few years. Instead of being limited to low-temperature applications, it is now being used in applications that require hundreds of degrees Celsius. That means solar thermal systems can not only be applied within less energy-intensive industries such as small-scale textile and food manufacturers to many other markets as well.

Wind Energy

This is actually a form of solar power as well, because winds are caused by the heating of the sun. It can be one of the most cost-effective renewable energy sources according to, and there’s no shortage in terms of supply.

One consideration for manufacturers might be the location of their plants and factories. Instead of setting them up on brand new sites, wind turbines can be built on existing ranches or farms, which makes it a viable option for businesses based in rural parts of Canada.

Tidal Energy

When water passes through a constricted area and begins to move faster, it generates energy through what are known as tidal currents. The tides are affected by the way gravity interacts between the sun, the Earth and the moon. This means another renewable energy source for manufacturers, and it is more powerful than wind energy because water is denser than air. It could also be a more consistent source than wind or solar energy.

That said, the concept of tidal energy turbines are still somewhat nascent, and there are questions about how readily it is for commercial adoption. However efforts are underway to improve their performance and explore how they could be scale the technology as required.


What we used to think of as waste can actually become a valuable renewable energy source. This includes everything from animal manure and human sewage to sawdust, algae and even firewood. The one thing all these materials have in common is stored energy from the sun. That means they can either be converted into liquid of gaseous fuels though various processes, or simply burned directly.

Whether as a producer of heat or replacement for fossil fuels, biomass holds huge potential based on its sheer versatility. That may be why the Canadian government recently announced funding support for a number of biofuel and bioenergy projects. As researchers learn more about how to develop biocarbon, sustainable aviation fuel, renewable natural gas and liquid transportation fuels, the impact on manufacturing could be huge.

Hydrogen and fuel cells

The good thing about hydrogen is that it’s everywhere — not just here on Earth but the entire universe. When converted into electric through fuel cells, hydrogen doesn’t produce any carbon, which represents another huge advantage.

Perhaps best of all, recent research suggests it will be possible to produce hydrogen fuel cells with materials like iron, which would be far more cost-effective than relying upon precious metals like platinum.

Canada is already a major player in this space, especially in niches like automotive manufacturing. The Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association is a great resource to learn more and to keep on top of new innovations as they emerge.


Ultimately, Canadian manufacturers will likely find the right renewable energy sources the same way they manage other strategic objectives.

This includes evaluating the options against their goals, the budgets they have available and the expected return. They might also be informed by their supply chain partners and perhaps even some of their customers as sustainability becomes a shard value across the business ecosystem.

Renewable energy is more than just a means to do away with fossil fuels. It is also an opportunity for businesses like manufacturers to differentiate themselves, optimize their cost structure, boost competitiveness and attract some of the most in-demand talent.

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