Global Renewable Energy industry lacks human rights and labour rights protections

Renewable energy BHRRC cover part 2London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) released a new report on September 5th : Renewable Energy Risking Rights & Returns: An analysis of solar, bioenergy & geothermal companies’ human rights commitments  . The report analyses 59 companies’ human rights policies and practices on five key areas: human rights commitment, community consultations, grievance mechanisms, labour rights and supply chain monitoring. It concludes that  “The current level of commitment by the majority of renewable energy companies is insufficient to prevent, address and mitigate human rights harms, especially as the sector rapidly expands.”

Concerning labour rights, only 36% of renewable energy companies were found to have policies committing them to core labour rights such as collective bargaining and freedom of association, 42% commit to  the prohibition of child labour and 41% to prohibition of  forced labour and modern slavery.  An aspect with resonance for Canadians, in light of the recent federal Court of Appeal decision against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the report found that “less than 30% (17 out of 59) of renewable energy companies have a stated commitment to consultation with communities affected by their projects. Only 8 companies reference indigenous peoples’ rights and 4 companies have a commitment to free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities.”  Overall,  47% of companies do not have basic human rights commitments or processes in place, and only 5 companies met a set of basic criteria on human rights, community consultation and access to remedy. These findings are consistent with a previous BHRRC  survey, reported in 2016.

Based  on its extensive research of the mining industry, BHRRC also states that “failure to respect human rights can result in project delays, legal procedures and costs for renewable energy companies, underlying the urgency to strengthen human rights due diligence.”   It calls for investors to step up their engagement in renewable energy companies to ensure better respect for human rights.

Read the press release here  for a summary of the report, and explore ongoing monitoring of human rights in the renewable energy sector here.

$2 Billion Low-Carbon Economy Fund announced, but Saskatchewan headed in a different direction

On June 15, Canada’s  Federal Environment and Climate Minister announced  details of the  government’s five-year, $2-billion Low Carbon Economy Fund , to support the goals of  the  Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.  The Low Carbon Economy Fund consists of two parts: the larger, Leadership Fund of  $1.4 billion, for projects proposed by  provinces and territories that have signed on  Pan-Canadian Framework , and the Low Carbon Economy Challenge, which  will be launched in fall 2017,  to support projects submitted by all provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous governments and organizations, businesses and both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations.  As described in “’Only fair’: McKenna on excluding Saskatchewan, Manitoba from $2B carbon fund” , Manitoba and Saskatchewan must sign on to the Pan-Canadian Framework by December 2017 to be eligible to receive any funding .

geothermalA CBC report summarizes the response by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall – who states, “”If this fund, which Saskatchewan taxpayers have helped create, is really about reducing carbon emissions, how does withholding those funds for green initiatives in Saskatchewan help that objective?”  Saskatchewan objects to the carbon tax mandate of the Pan-Canadian Framework, and has directed its climate change fight to carbon capture and storage, and more recently, Canada’s first geothermal power plant.  The press release from SaskPower regarding the geothermal power purchase agreement is here. Read  this article from DeSmog blog for a wide-ranging description of Saskatchewan’s energy policy and the announcement of its geothermal plant.

66% of Canada’s energy in 2015 came from renewable sources, and other facts

NEB Revenewables coverA Canadian Press story in early May highlighted that renewable energy accounted for 66% of energy generated in Canada in 2015, and appeared widely –  for example, in  the Globe and Mail (May 2) and the Toronto Star . The information behind the news was drawn  from  Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources – Energy Market Analysis May 2017  by the National Energy Board , which provides much more detail about each type of renewable energy, and notes the factors influencing their adoption rates (including costs, technological improvement, environmental considerations, and regulatory issues).  The NEB also compares  Canada to other countries, and perhaps most interestingly,  includes a section on Emerging Technologies , which highlights tidal power, off-shore wind, and geothermal.  Canada has no existing production capacity for either off-shore wind or geothermal, although the report outlines proposed developments.

Some highlights from the Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources: the 2015 proportion of 66% renewables in our energy mix is an increase from 60% in 2005;  only five countries (Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Austria, and Denmark) produce a similar or larger share of electricity from renewable sources; China leads the world in total hyroelectricity production – Canada is second; over 98% of Canada’s solar power generation capacity is located in Ontario.

Other useful NEB publications:   Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape (October 2016), which documents historical growth rates for renewable power in Canada, and each province and territory, and for the latest in energy projections, see Canada’s Energy Future 2016: Update – Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040 . These projections, which include fossil fuels as well as renewables,  were published in October 2016 and therefore don’t reflect the policies of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.