The competitive price of solar, a global push towards renewable energies, and trade deals with European and transpacific countries are encouraging Canadian solar companies to apply an international lens to business growth.
To support Canadian solar companies on their global export journey, we spoke with Ian Williams, Trade Commissioner responsible for Renewable Energy at Global Affairs Canada for a two-part Q&A series.
Here in Part Two, Ian shares the international business development opportunities that Canadian solar companies can take advantage of right now.
If you haven’t already, read Part One of this series to learn how the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) can accelerate your global growth with connections to market knowledge, networks, and financial support.
Learn more by attending “Developing New Export Opportunities for Canadian SMEs” at Solar Canada Conference on May 8.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Why is now a good time for Canadian solar companies to pursue international growth opportunities?
Ian Williams (TCS): Global renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of five per cent for the next 10 to 20 years. Canada has a robust renewable energy market but as policies across the country change, so does demand. Canadian SMEs must have their foot in multiple markets to sustain growth.
Where are Canadian solar companies currently exporting to?
Ian Williams (TCS): Canadian solar companies are doing business around the world. The US is the market in which Canadian firms are most active. They are also doing business in the European Union, the Caribbean and throughout Latin America.
With the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in place, Canadian firms are increasingly looking at these markets where they have advantages over their international competition.
CETA is a progressive free trade agreement which covers virtually all sectors and aspects of Canada-EU trade to eliminate or reduce barriers. For example, prior to CETA’s entry into force, only 25 percent of EU tariff lines on Canadian goods were duty-free. With CETA, 98 percent of EU tariff lines are now duty-free for Canadian goods.
The CPTPP provides comprehensive tariff elimination across all sectors. Once fully implemented, 99 per cent of tariff lines among CPTPP parties (Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) will be duty-free.
What other global opportunities exist for Canadian solar companies? What countries offer the most significant opportunities?
Ian Williams (TCS): There are a range of opportunities around the globe. In the US and other developed countries, opportunities range from residential rooftop solar to utility-scale projects. Commercial and industrial buyers are also looking to reduce their carbon footprints by sourcing renewable electricity.
We also see a lot of opportunity for project developers and engineering and consulting firms in developing countries across Africa and Asia. This is related to the global push led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are seeing a significant flow of climate finance supporting projects in these countries.
Lastly, we are seeing more interest from mining firms looking to use solar to reduce power costs, particularly in remote non-grid connected sites anywhere in the world.
The key trend we see across these opportunities is that the end goal is to reduce carbon but also to reduce cost. Solar, where it lowers the price of electricity, is a no-brainer and firms are moving quite quickly to deploy it.
What do companies need to have to be successful in global markets?
Ian Williams (TCS): Knowledge and networks. Firms must know the legal, business and cultural rules and etiquette of a market and they must build a strong local network which usually includes a good local partner. That’s the bread and butter of what the TCS does. With our on-the-ground presence in 161 cities worldwide we have unparalleled international networks, and if we don’t have the knowledge you need, we have access to it.
Learn more about the Trade Commissioner Service
Read Part One of this series to learn how the TCS can support your company’s global growth through access to market knowledge, networks, and financial assistance to cover international business development costs.
Leverage the CanExport Program
The Trade Commissioner Service will be onsite at Solar Canada Conference to share information and answer your questions about the CanExport Program. Join them on May 8, 2.10-2.40 pm in Exposition Hall D. Learn more here.
Looking for more solar insights?
Provincial governments and consumers are focusing more on renewable energy to lower greenhouse gases and utilize more affordable sources of energy. This has created a tremendous opportunity for companies to expand their market presence in Canada. Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2019 will provide an excellent platform to connect with industry professionals and enter this growing market. Join us on May 8-9, 2019 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Register today.