Wind and Solary Energy in Canada, U.S., and Renewables in 2030

In a press release on January 12, 2016, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced a five year annual average growth rate of 23 per cent per year for the industry, led by investments in Ontario and Quebec  . The Association anticipates continued growth, especially with the policy announcement in 2015 from Alberta (already the 3rd largest wind market) to replace two-thirds of coal generation with renewable generation. CanWEA also released a report by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting in December 2015. Wind Dividends: An Analysis of the Economic Impacts from Ontario’s Wind Procurements   forecasts that from 2006-2030, wind energy in Ontario will have stimulated more than $14 billion in economic activity, including 73,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $5 billion in wages and benefits. The report warns, however, that Ontario “currently has no plans for new wind energy purchases, and risks losing many of the good-paying, wind-related jobs it has created.”

Canada ranks 7th in the world for the installed wind generation capacity, which meets 5% of Canada’s electricity demand. In contrast, Denmark announced on January 19th, that it has set a new world record for wind energy generation with nearly 40 % of the country’s overall electricity consumption in 2014). For a thorough statistical overview of the wind energy industry and employment in the U.S., see Wind Vision, released by the U.S. Department of Energy in March 2015. According to the 6th annual U.S. Solar Jobs Census  ( January 2016) by industry-group The Solar Foundation, the industry created 1.2 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. in 2015, nearly 12 times faster than the national rate. Total solar industry employment was 208,859 , with installation as the single largest solar employment sector. Women in solar jobs increased by 2% and now represent 24% of the solar workforce. Prospects for growth in U.S. wind and solar are greatly improved after the renewal of the renewable energy tax credit system in December 2015 , with spillover benefits expected for Canadian manufacturers as well: see “U.S. tax move brightens picture for Canadian wind, solar firms”  in the Globe and Mail (Dec. 21).

A January report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (NREL) and the U.S. Department of Energy updates the on-going NREL analysis of clean energy policy impacts in the U.S. . Examining state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards policies in 2013, the authors found an average of $2.2 billion in economic benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and another $5.2 billion in benefits from reductions in sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants. Further, the report estimates nearly 200,000 jobs were created in the renewable energy sector, with over $20 billion in gross domestic product.   Read A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards .

A new report released at the sixth Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi on January 17 quantifies the macroeconomic impacts of doubling the global share of renewables in the energy mix by 2030. Renewable Energy Benefits: Measuring the Economic Impact  states: “Doubling the share of renewables increases direct and indirect employment in the sector to 24.4 million by 2030. Renewable energy jobs will grow across all technologies, with a high concentration in the same technologies that account for a majority of the employment today, namely bioenergy, hydropower and solar.” …“The jobs created are likely to offset job losses in sectors such as fossil fuels because the sectors involved in the renewables supply chain are usually more distributed and labour-intensive than the conventional energy sector. For instance, solar PV creates at least twice the number of jobs per unit of electricity generated compared with coal or natural gas. As a result, substituting fossil fuels for renewables could lead to a higher number of jobs overall.” (p. 16-17). The report also states that “training is essential to support the expansion of the renewable energy sector. This requires systematic access across all layers of the society to education and training in relevant fields, including engineering, economics, science, environmental management, finance, business and commerce. Professional training, as well as school or university curricula must evolve adequately to cover renewable energy, sustainability and climate change. Vocational training programmes can also offer opportunities to acquire specialisation and take advantage of the growing renewable energy job market. The elaboration of specific, certified skills and the categorisation of trainees based on their level of experience and training is recommended.” (p. 79).

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