‘Job intensive:’ Study says clean energy fast track to employment growth


Some of the 30,000 solar panels that make up the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s new 2-megawatt photovoltaic array in Albuquerque, N.M. on April 20, 2011. File photo by The Associated Press/Susan Montoya Bryan

New research says job growth from clean energy will dramatically outpace that from fossil fuels over the next decade — as long as future Canadian governments maintain or increase attempts to fight climate change.

“The clean-energy sector is a good-news story that no one’s talking about,” said Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada, a think tank based at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “There is nothing to fear about moving forward on climate action.”

Earlier this year, the group released research that found Canada’s clean-energy sector — which encompasses renewable energy and energy conservation — had already produced 300,000 jobs by 2017.

Further study made public Wednesday projects job growth in the sector to significantly outperform most other parts of the economy.

Using recognized economic modelling tools, it suggests that direct jobs from clean energy will grow at a rate of 3.4 per cent a year between 2020 and 2030. That’s nearly four times the Canadian average.

The same models suggest fossil fuel industries will slowly lose jobs over that time.

Smith said the data shows clean energy employment could reach nearly 560,000 by the end of the next decade. That’s 160,000 new jobs, more than enough to make up for the 50,000 jobs which fossil fuels are expected to shed.

The study also forecasts money flowing into clean energy will grow 2.9 per cent a year. Fossil fuel investment is expected to shrink.

Fossil fuels will be bigger than clean energy for years to come. But what the research shows, Smith said, is that new jobs and growth will come from the latter.

“The fast lane is clean energy,” she said. “This is where we’re seeing job growth.”

Her conclusions are in broad agreement with others in the field.

“Deep decarbonization will be job intensive,” said Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University.

Fossil fuel alternatives require more labour, he said.

Kent Fellows of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy agreed. He said studies in British Columbia, which has had a carbon tax for more than a decade, suggest climate measures didn’t cost jobs and may have added some.

“They show that either you’re pretty stable or maybe you’ve got a little bit of an increase in employment,” he said. “The fears of losing jobs everywhere are probably misguided.”

The British group Carbon Tracker has found that while solar and wind provide only three per cent of global energy, they account for one-quarter of all new generation. And few of the world’s cars are electric, but they make up 22 per cent of sales growth.

Automation is removing jobs from the oilpatch. Between 2014 and 2016, Alberta’s production grew by nearly 10 per cent but 39,000 fewer people were employed.

Smith points out the modelling assumes that Canadian climate measures either stay in place or are increased — an assumption which the current federal election campaign has thrown in doubt.

“We’ve got three parties that are not only committing to keep these policies but build on them,” Smith said. MORE

Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 


The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE

Clean energy one of Canada’s fastest-growing industries

 

Prince Edward County could easily become carbon emissions free by 2030, add 3,5018.45 megawatts of carbon free energy at no cost to taxpayers, create life-enhancing  local jobs, add tax revenue, and open the County to green energy investment. What’s lacking? Political  imagination and leadership.

Merran Smith, Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada, speaks about the provincial government’s CleanBC plan aimed at reducing climate pollution, during an announcement in Vancouver, on December 5, 2018. File photo by The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

Canada’s clean-energy sector is growing faster than the economy as a whole and is rivalling some of the more well known industries for jobs, a new report shows.

Clean Energy Canada, a think-tank at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is releasing a study today it commissioned to try to paint the first real picture of an industry it feels nobody knows much about but that is critically important to the future both in terms of climate change and the economy.

“Other countries actually keep this data and Canada doesn’t,” said executive director Merran Smith.

People talk about the clean-technology sector often but clean energy encompasses more than high-tech firms making hydrogen fuel cells and electric cars, said Smith.

She said clean energy includes everything from the production and transmission of renewable electricity to transit workers and construction workers making buildings more energy-efficient. So a hydroelectric-dam operator, a bus driver, and the person who installs a high efficiency furnace would all be included in Clean Energy Canada’s job count.

All told, the study concluded, nearly 300,000 Canadians were directly employed in clean energy in 2017, nearly 100,000 more than Statistics Canada data said worked in mining, quarrying, and oil-and-gas extraction. There are 7.5 times as many people working in clean energy as in forestry and logging.

Smith said the goal of the report is to show Canadians just how big a piece of the economic pie clean energy represents. MORE