Earth Day is a time of reflection for Canadians as the clock ticks on efforts to get to net-zero emissions. With its focus on the Clean Power and Green Infrastructure sectors, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) demonstrates every day how its green philosophy is being translated into concrete actions to lower greenhouse gas emissions and drive energy efficiency. 

Green initiatives range from developing clean energy sources such as Small Modular Reactors, wind and solar to supporting zero-emission vehicles through its Charging and Hydrogen Refuelling Initiative, energy-efficient building upgrades and Carbon Capture and Storage.

“The CIB enabled us to scale out our concept and offer and go further than we could have alone,” says Pierre Langlois, President of SOFIAC, a retrofit aggregator that received a $200-million CIB loan in 2021.

He said the idea of an investment bank that targets projects fighting climate change can help to mitigate risks for investors and enable a more rapid and larger deployment of private sector capital.

“Green banks around the world have an important role as an accelerator for the transformation of the financial market and in helping initiatives to develop and grow faster and bigger.”

Bruce Ander, CEO of Markham District Energy, said CIB funding was a catalyst to advance the company’s business plan to connect buildings and lower its carbon footprint. Although district energy systems have been in place in Canada for more than a century, he said it is becoming increasingly clear that they are a leading strategy to help urban centres move to net-zero.

“The creation of a green bank (CIB) provides a solid foundation for low-carbon investment partnerships between the federal government (that owns the net-zero target for Canada) and the private sector that will deliver impactful projects.”

He adds that an international day focused on the planet’s health is crucial to change the priorities of the current generation that will make key decisions over the next few decades.

Canada Infrastructure Bank CEO Ehren Cory says that the Crown corporation’s position as an impact investor is helping the country as it continues the journey to a net-zero economy.

“We are making it better for Canada, and for the planet, for generations to come.”

Edward Rubinstein, Director, Environmental Compliance, Energy & Sustainability at the University Health Network, said the business case for the Toronto Western Hospital’s Wastewater Energy Transfer system that will cut about 10,000 tonnes of GHGs each year, would not have been nearly as strong without the CIB loan.

“Having a reliable source for financing low-carbon projects unlocks innovation, especially for some of the ‘deep’ retrofits with longer paybacks that need to take place for Canada to meet its climate targets,” he added.

Scott Mabury, University of Toronto Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, said the $56 million loan from the CIB will help fund several retrofit projects at its St. George Campus that will cut emissions by more than 50 per cent by the end of the decade. The blended financing model allows the university to move faster to address climate change.

“At a time when all levels of government are responding to global competition for green technology, the support from the CIB enables U of T to leverage these efforts and support a competitive green economy,” he said.

“While infrastructure isn’t ‘sexy’, it is critically important for health, comfort and a thriving economy,” said Peter Russell, Director of Sustainability & District Energy for the City of Richmond. The city’s wholly owned Lulu Island Energy Co. received a $175 million loan from the CIB. It is one of three district energy projects funded by the bank for a total of nearly $1 billion.

The CIB’s investments in public transit and trade/transportation sectors will also make an environmental difference.

Loans to purchase electric buses are helping Canadian municipalities to finance higher upfront costs and achieve their net-zero aspirations.

Durham Region, which borrowed $62 million to fund the purchase of up to 98 buses, said the CIB helped to offset the risk of longer payback periods that can prevent projects from scaling up because of scarce sources of revenues.

“Green banks can help deliver projects that are not sufficiently met by traditional financial markets and meet the unique needs of investors. They can make it easier to finance projects that otherwise wouldn’t be built, which helps to attract other sources of capital,” said Ian McVey, Manager of Sustainability, and Finance Commissioner Nancy Taylor.