B.C. Clean Tech: Still Can’t Make The Big Show

The recent sale of Xantrex Technology is an indication that the B.C. clean technology scene is finally reaching a maturity level that has eluded it until recently.

Unfortunately, it’s also an indication that the scene still has some way to go before it becomes a player.

Xantrex, along with Ballard Power, the big kahuna of the cleantech and powertech cluster in B.C., agreed in late July to being acquired by French electrical engineering group Schneider Electric SA, in a deal worth close to $500 million.

The deal certainly showed that the B.C.’s emerging cleantech cluster is getting on to the world’s radar as almost every industry in every country struggles to realign its energy supplies and usage. Schneider is a global specialist in energy management, and clearly sees Xantrex’s leadership in advanced power electronics for the delivery of electricity, especially electricity generated from renewable sources, as a much needed addition to its service and product lineup. This in turn will help it fend off bigger fish who are intent on gobbling it up.

But amid all the congratulatory blather over the deal – and growing a company from $10 million to $500 million is quite a feat – was an interesting commentary about the B.C. situation.

Xantrex chairman Mossadiq Umedaly, who’s also chairman of BC Hydro, said his company had to find a buyer to take advantage of opportunities in the global market. Xantrex helped create the renewable power industry and certainly knows it, he explained. But it needed to increase to global weight its supply chain and its sales and service network.

In other words, it was still too small to really make it in a marketplace that’s huge and getting much bigger as energy becomes top of mind among the world’s big companies.

So while B.C. spawned what we thought was a major league power company, we’re really still just minor leaguers.