Study Examines “High Road”, Unionized Jobs in the California Solar Industry

A study released on November 10 by the University of California at Berkeley examines the environmental and economic impact of a boom in utility-scale solar electricity generation in California since 2010.

The report describes the overall economic and policy situation, then calculates the new construction, maintenance, and operations jobs created, plus the upstream and downstream jobs. It estimates the income and health and pension benefits of these new construction and plant operations jobs, most of which are unionized.

In California, the union contracts have required payments into apprenticeship training programs; the study calculates the new monies that have been generated for apprenticeship programs, and asserts that the boom in utility-scale solar construction has set in motion a related boom in apprenticeship and other forms of training for electricians, operating engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, millwrights, piledrivers, and laborers. The author estimates how apprenticeship affects lifetime earnings- using the example of electrical apprentices, who are estimated to see a lifetime income approximately $1 million higher than that of workers without similar training.

Finally, the report describes the policy environment that has facilitated this solar boom, and makes recommendations for the future. The author, Peter Philips, from the University of Utah, is currently a Visiting Scholar at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, at the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy.

Literature Review of Job Creation Impact of Energy Efficiency Investments

A study released by the U.K. Energy Research Centre (UKERC) on November 4 presents an analytical literature review of fifty studies published since 2000 on the relationship between green energy investment and job creation in the U.S., Europe and China. The report outlines the key concepts and modelling methodologies, and provides a comparative analysis of the job impact results of the studies surveyed.

Overall, the authors found that renewable energy and energy efficiency create up to ten times more jobs per unit of electricity generated or saved than fossil fuels. However, they conclude that the job creation issue is complex and is often wrongly focussed on short-term benefits. “The proper domain for the debate about the long-term role of renewable energy and energy efficiency is the wider framework of energy and environmental policy, not a narrow analysis of green job impacts.”

 LINKS

Low Carbon Jobs: The Evidence for Net Job Creation from Policy Support for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is available from the Energy Research Centre website.

Canadian Environmental Education: Post Secondary Guides, Context, and New Initiatives for Public Outreach

Alternatives Journal in October published a special issue addressing environmental education. The fifteenth annual Environmental Education Guide helps students heading to postsecondary education to identify and compare the 700 interdisciplinary programs available in 120 Canadian universities and community colleges.

Three accompanying articles emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary studies: “Academic Evolution: Innovation knows no Boundaries”, profiles the work of Dr. James Orbinski, who leads research on global health and climate change as the Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and Tim Kruger, who is the Coordinator of the Geoengineering Program at the Martin Oxford School at University of Oxford, and one of the authors of the Oxford Principles.

A quote from Kruger sums up the point of the article: “Climate change presents systems problems, involving multiple, complex mechanisms…What is left now, are those problems which are not amenable to being solved by a single disciplinary approach.” “The Genius of the Generalist”, describes the educational paths of three graduate students- two of whom have Masters of Environmental Studies degrees from York University in Toronto and “Meet 6 Environmental Grads” profiles careers after graduation from various environmental programmes in Canada, and one in Freiberg, Germany.

For students heading for an MBA, Corporate Knights magazine released its annual guide to Sustainable MBA programs around the world in October. As in past years, York University’s Schulich School of Business ranked first, followed closely by the Sauder School of Business at University of British Columbia.

And two new online initiatives to promote climate change literacy and climate justice emerged from British Columbia in October. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation jointly created free classroom-ready materials designed for students in grades 8 to 12. Eight modules explore climate justice within the context of B.C.’s communities, history, economy and ecology. On October 28th the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria, launched “B.C Climate Impacts & Adaptation”, an  interactive online module free to anyone interested in expanding their climate literacy. At the same time, PICS updated the content of the educational section of their website, which houses other modules and mini-lessons.

LINKS
 
 

A New Commission with a Prescription of “Ecofiscal” Policies for Canada

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission was launched on November 4, with the release of a report which makes the economic case for a new suite of Canadian policies at the municipal, provincial and national level.

“Ecofiscal policies correct market signals to encourage the economic activities we want (job creation, investment, and innovation), while discouraging those we don’t (greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of our land, air, and water). They use prices to help companies and individuals make decisions that take the true value of our environmental assets into account.” The Commission describes itself as independent, and representative of all political viewpoints; this manifests itself in the membership, which includes prominent former politicians Jean Charest, Bob Rae, Preston Manning, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, and Mike Harcourt. It is housed at McGill University, and led by Professor Chris Ragan of the McGill University Department of Economics (formerly a special adviser to the Bank of Canada).

LINKS
View the

 
Smart, Practical, Possible: Canadian Options for Greater Economic and Environmental Prosperity, Inaugural Report of  the EcoFiscal Commission (English Version / French Version).
 
Chris Ragan is interviewed by Tyler Hamilton of Corporate Knights magazine.

 

Corporate Leaders Sign on to an Open Letter for More Climate Change Leadership, Carbon Pricing in Canada

In an open letter to Canada’s federal and provincial political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, the Clean 50 states that Canada needs to put a higher priority on climate change action, and specifically, “We believe that one solution is to develop a well thought out framework that includes setting a price on carbon at some specific date in the future, that would reduce other taxes, and provide an incentive for businesses and individuals to take steps to reduce their use of carbon.” The Clean 50 is a group founded and managed by Delta Management, a corporate search firm specializing in green jobs; it includes sustainability professionals from corporate Canada, as well as academics and individuals. See the website and their Open Letter

Superlatives for the U.S.-China Agreement on Climate Change, and what it Means for Canada

Media superlatives signal the importance of the surprising climate change announcement by the U.S. and China on November 11. President Obama pledged that the U.S. will emit 26 to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005, and will double the pace of reduction it had previously targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, and that clean energy sources would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

See the White House press release and the White House Fact Sheet. For a summary of U.S. reactions, see the Blue Green Alliance at “What Leaders are Saying about the Historic Agreement”.

What is the impact in Canada? A Globe and Mail article stated that the agreement would put pressure on Prime Minister Harper to act on climate change, yet columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote, “Leadership means a willingness to spend political capital on an issue, and in Canada’s case, there is no such leadership at the top. That this absence would suddenly shift as a result of a China-U.S. understanding is improbable in the extreme”.

Alberta’s new premier Jim Prentice announced that the province will “stiffen” its regulations for fossil fuel extraction. “It’s the desire of Alberta to be participatory in any sort of international agreement that we can arrive at, modeled on what the United States and China have been able to achieve”. When the U.S. – China agreement was announced, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne, accompanied by green business leaders, had just returned from a trade mission to China.

According to the University of Victoria PICS Newscan, Guelph’s Canadian Solar Solutions signed a $70-million deal to build solar energy plants in China, and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group signed an agreement for future collaboration.  

Climate Change Momentum Continues at the G20 Summit in Brisbane

Despite the efforts of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to keep it off the agenda, pressure to address climate change was heaped on the G20 group, notably  by the climate agreement signed by the U.S. and China. Pope Francis sent  a letter to Prime Minister Abbott that admonished “unbridled” consumerism, environmental degradation, and their capacity to undermine global economic stability. See “U.S., EU Override Australia to put Climate Change on G20 Agenda” from Reuters and “Pope Francis to World Leaders: Consumerism Represents ‘Constant Assault’ on the Environment” from ClimateProgress.

The final communiqué expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund. Canada announced on November 20 that it would contribute $300 million to the Green Climate Fund. See the government press release and government backgrounder, and see also “Green Climate Fund in the Spotlight at G20 Leaders’ Meet” from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Ontario and Quebec sign Agreements on Electricity Trade and Climate Change

On November 21, Ontario and Québec announced a number of agreements to “strengthen Ontario and Québec’s partnership to build up Central Canada’s economy, create jobs and make a difference in people’s lives”. These agreements specifically focused on electricity trade, climate change (including carbon pricing), infrastructure investments, the Energy East pipeline, interprovincial trade, and the Francophonie.

Relating to Energy East, Ontario affirmed Québec’s concerns and insistence that climate change is considered by the NEB and that the unfair burden of risk born by those nearby the converted aging gas pipelines is addressed.

Read Ontario’s press release and Ontario’s backgrounder, and see CBC coverage in “Ontario, Québec sign deals on Electricity, Climate Change”. According to the Globe and Mail, federal and Alberta government ministers will be travelling to Quebec soon to press the case for Energy East. Read reaction to the Ontario-Quebec agreement by Clare Demerse at Clean Energy Canada.

Analysis of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced as a “done deal” in Ottawa on September 26, despite the fact that the text had never been made public till that time.

The agreement abolishes almost all tariffs and reduces many non-tariff barriers, but most controversial is the chapter on investment protection, which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. The ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the ability to sue Canada or a province, if the companies allege that domestic health or environmental policies and regulations interfere with their right to make a profit.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of CETA because of these ISDS provisions and released a new book in November. Trading away Democracy (co-published by a number of other organizations, including Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friends of the Earth Europe).
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva has published a detailed review which includes a summary of the Environment and Labour chapters of the CETA . The article points out a departure from past trade agreements such as NAFTA: disputes under the Environment or Labour chapters cannot be initiated by civil society, but only by a government- to -government mechanism specifically defined in each chapter. See “Unpacking the EU Canada Free Trade Deal” in Bridges (Nov. 3).

Also see the Government of Canada website relating to CETA, including a link to the text of the agreement (English version / French version).

Grid Parity for Solar and Wind Energy

According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International, wind power alone could supply as much as 19 percent of global electricity needs by 2030, and 30% by 2050, given policy support. The economics of wind and solar production are leading the way: see an overview of recent studies relating to grid parity of solar and wind energy, including the October report by Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah, and a New York Times article. The Deutsche Bank report found that solar has already reached grid parity in the ten states that represent 90 % of U.S. solar electricity production. Wind continues to face community opposition, but a Health Canada study in November concludes that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and self-reported medical illnesses and health conditions. See the Health Canada study.

Pipeline News: Report Questions Economic Benefit of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Project ahead of Mass Arrests

A report released by Simon Fraser University and The Goodman Group Ltd. on November 10th asserts that pipeline company Kinder Morgan has exaggerated the number of jobs to be created by its Trans Mountain Expansion Project and drastically underestimated the potential cost of spills. 

While the company holds that the project will support 36,000 person-years of work for British Columbians, with an additional 2000 jobs in spin-offs, the Goodman Group report estimates a maximum of 12,000 person-years during the construction period – amounting to about 4000 jobs per year. Further, revenues for the province may also be lower than claimed. The Goodman report was released just after Kinder Morgan was granted an injunction on November 14th against a group of residents protesting the Trans Mountain project on Burnaby Mountain. 53 protestors have been arrested as of November 22nd.

Read the Goodman report, Economic Costs and Benefits of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) for B.C. and Metro Vancouver. Read “Economists Question Projected Value of Trans Mountain’s Pipeline” from The Globe and Mail. For information about the protests, see “Kinder Morgan Slaps Burnaby Residents with Multi-Million-Dollar Lawsuit” from the Vancouver Observer, and “Kinder Morgan Protests: More Protesters are Arrested as Test Drilling Starts” from the CBC.

Pipeline News: Energy East Application filed at NEB; Quebec Response

On October 30th, Trans Canada filed a formal application for its Energy East pipeline project from the National Energy Board (NEB). See the NEB website for information about the Energy East application and the National Energy Board process, including how to participate, or see the CBC website for “TransCanada Formally Applies to NEB for Energy East Pipeline Approval”.

TransCanada claims the project will directly or indirectly create 14,000 jobs, and help create $36 billion worth of economic activity, basing its projections on a new Conference Board of Canada report, which updates a previous report by Deloitte consultants. See Energy East Pipeline Project: Understanding the Economic Benefits for Canada and its RegionsSee also an “Economic Backgrounder” from Trans Canada.

 On November 6th, the Québec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asserting provincial jurisdiction to conduct its own environmental assessment and casting a vote of non-confidence in the NEB process. The resolution condemned the NEB’s exclusion of climate impacts from the factors it considers and the failure of the federal government to adopt national emissions regulations for oil and gas. Québec’s Minister of Natural Resources said the province will analyze potential economic and environmental impacts and the threat to its wintertime natural gas supply in consultation with the public, and will appear before the NEB with its findings. Find the resolution in the legislative Votes and Proceedings for Nov. 6 at page 471, and the Quebec press release. See reaction to the resolution from the Pembina Institute, emphasizing climate impacts. The Québec Minister of Environment also sent a letter to Trans Canada on November 18th which  outlined seven project conditions, including assurance the province will benefit economically and adequate involvement of the public and First Nations in decision-making. Read the conditions in “Environment Minister sets Conditions for TransCanada in Quebec”.

How Should Canada Prepare for Climate Migrants?

As part of its Climate Justice program, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – B.C. Office released a report in November, asking: “given Canada’s historical and ongoing contribution to global warming, what is our collective obligation to people fleeing regions most affected by climate change, and how prepared are we to meet these obligations?” Researchers found serious gaps in current policies and thinking around climate migration, and recommend legislative reform to create a new immigration class of “climate migrants”, with targets and programs to ensure Canada absorbs its fair share of those migrants. Recognizing that most climate migrants will remain in developing countries, Canada should also increase its support to those countries which will bear the brunt of climate displacement. Read Preparing B.C. for Climate Migration.