Historical background

A comprehensive study1 commissioned by Natural Resources Canada and published in March 1999, proposed a significant market development strategy based on a new and inclusive multi-stakeholders approach. The main objective of this strategy was to provide the geoexchange industry and Natural Resources Canada with the foundation for development and implementation of collaborative actions designed to grow and sustain the industry in Canada. In the development of this Strategy, industry respondents were consulted as well as interested utilities.

One of the main outcomes of this strategy was the suggestion to create an Alliance. This idea finally materialized itself in the following years with the formal incorporation of the Canadian GeoExchage Coalition (CGC). The CGC was created in 2002 at the initiative of the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) and industry stakeholders with support from Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative (REDI) to foster development of the ground source heat pump industry in Canada. The mandate of the CGC is to: 

  • Unite and coordinate private and public sector stakeholders to inform, develop and promote ground source heat pump products and services
  • Expand the ground source heat pump market in Canada
  • Plan, coordinate, manage, and carry out activities that overcome barriers to effective market penetration for ground source heat pump products and services, including first cost competitiveness, infrastructure development and consumer confidence building

The CGC inherited the responsibility to move forward a number of sub-set strategies of which: 

  • To accelerate and expand market penetration of geoexchange systems, with a particular focus on the non-residential sector
  • To create a momentum with which the product moves from one end of the adoption scale to the other without interruption
  • To remove the major barriers to geoexchange market penetration in Canada.  

In a major move from past experiences, it was recognized that the CGC would have a broad base and a mission. As outlined in the Strategy, the essential mission of CGC is to promote the awareness and proper deployment of the geoexchange option in Canada. The needs for the Coalition were justified as follow: 

  • Reduction of the perception of risk with the endorsement of a critical mass of a number of credible groups
  • Critical mass needed to move away from fragmented, uncoordinated efforts and achieve true market transformation
  • A national effort is needed to create awareness in all regions of Canada
  • Pooling of resources is necessary since the industry is fragmented and relatively small.
  • Coordination of utilities is necessary. Strategy surveys show strong support for active utility participation. The need for utility participation seen as critical as they have credible relationships with many of the prospective purchasers of geoexchange systems.
  • Advocacy among governments to address inconsistencies in technology representation in all government programs. 

At the time, it was, and to some extent still is, recognized that while geoexchange offers proven economic and functional benefits, in Canada, it has remained a cottage industry mainly focused on opportunities in areas under-served by natural gas. A major barrier to growing the industry has been a lack of an infrastructure ensuring high professional standards and capacity. The Canadian GeoExchange Coalition was therefore created to raise awareness and to accelerate the growth of the geoexchange industry. The CGC has taken its role very seriously and engaged into an extensive geoexchange market transformation exercise.

As such, one of the four strategic thrusts identified in the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition’s 2004/05 Business Plan was to develop a professionally certified Canadian geoexchange supplier base2. Accreditation of suppliers was identified as a key instrument to address the lack of a clear market infrastructure to ensure professional standards and capacity.

From the Coalition’s Business Plan, it recognized that “…limited availability of experienced installers and designers has resulted in a number of poorly performing systems across the country that affected considerably the credibility of the technology” and “…The lack of properly trained and accredited GeoExchange experts, first and foremost in the design community, is currently a bottleneck to the growth of the industry.”  

To help address market transformation barriers, the CGC and Natural Resources Canada entered into a three years contribution agreement in 2003. In October 2004, the CGC received an additional mandate from Natural Resources Canada to “develop and manage implementation of a geoexchange training and quality assurance initiative in collaboration with national and regional partners to set a recognized Canadian professional and industry standard for design and installation methods and training.” Jointly financed by the federal government and the CGC through membership dues, this initiative also includes the development of accreditation and certification mechanism.  

Based on various industry consultations, discussions, findings through pilot and demonstration projects, the CGC commissioned a study to investigate the viability of a certification program, and to provide recommendations and guidelines for such a program. To achieve this, a review and analysis of other industry initiatives and a survey of multiple industry stakeholders was conducted from December 2005 to February 2006.  

Findings from the research conducted and ensuing recommendations and guidelines were produced for the CGC for the development and implementation of the CGC Global Quality GeoExcahnge Program. The CGC Board of Directors reviewed the recommendations and guidelines favourably, and decided to submit them for industry consultation. CGC published and disseminated a public consultation document in May 2006, throughout the country.  

CGC then executed and completed a pan-Canadian public consultation in June 2006, meeting many interveners over the course of the following months and informing principal industry stakeholders about the proposed program of certification, and receiving their comments.  

A few hundred people were directly involved in the consultation. CGC reached installers and designers directly, as well as public-sector managers, government organisms, and financial institutions. CGC has recorded and compiled commentary collected during the consultation, in order to finalise the national program for implementation at the beginning of 2007.   

The Canadian geoexchange industry is on a critical path towards achieving market transformation. Program implementation is the final step of this long process toward a vision of adequate training for professionals at the heart of the industry, as well as quality control of installations. 

The CGC Global Quality GeoExchange™ Program® is a comprehensive voluntary quality assurance program with the ultimate objective to protect residential and ICI3 purchasers of GeoExchange systems for the existing and new construction markets based on the following components: 

  • Training for drillers, designers and installers;
  • Accreditation of designers, system installers and loop installers;
  • Qualification of design firms, installation contractors and drilling companies
  • Certification of GeoExchange projects;
  • Mediation between parties.
  • Communication of the program and its benefits 

The program is designed to bring value to industry participants who will benefit from increased market opportunities resulting from increased consumer confidence and its reference in procurement policies of the various stakeholders such as utilities, government agencies and financial institutions.

Since its inception in 2007, CGC trained over 8000 individuals, accredited 800 of them and certified over 18,000 residential systems.

1 Marbek Resource Consultants Ltd., “Ground Source Heat Pump Market Development Strategy – Final Report”, March 31, 1999.
2 The need for geoexchange certification program has been consistently recognized and requested by a variety of stakeholders from all layers of the industry. In many CGC led events, barriers to market transformation and development were assessed and reassessed a number of times and a list of solutions was also developed. The document titled National Consultation on the Proposed GeoExchange Certification Program – Consultation Document published by CGC in May 2006 presents a summary of two large meetings organized by CGC, during which these issues were discussed at length.
3 Institutional, commercial and industrial.

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