Putting the ‘Justice’ in ‘Just Transition’: Tackling inequality in the new renewable economy is a report released on November 7, co-written by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and the Victorian Trades Hall Council . This is the latest development in a union campaign to promote Australia’s offshore wind industry , focusing on the Star of the South project, Australia’s first proposed offshore wind farm. The report calls for government policies to support the emerging industry and to make the Star of the South “ the best possible example of a just transition” by diversifying the job opportunities for workers and communities currently reliant on coal, oil and gas.
Specifically, the new report recommends:
- the Commonwealth establish an energy transition authority to work with states and regions, develop a stand-alone Offshore Renewables Act, and create an agency responsible for facilitating the development of offshore renewable energy in Commonwealth waters;
- the development of offshore and onshore renewable energy master plans that incorporate assessments of supply chains, procurement and infrastructure;
- ensuring renewable energy financing, targets, contracts, licensing and approvals require the maximising of local jobs, including planning for direct redeployment of workers from fossil fuel industries;
- the Victorian Government establish a just transition group to ensure a well-planned energy transition with the best possible social outcomes by formally consulting with relevant stakeholders including trade unions, employers and communities;
- maximising the social benefit of the Star of the South project by requiring local design, manufacturing, and construction;
- funding of appropriate training and retraining through local TAFEs, along with minimum apprentice ratios; and
- maximising the number of jobs available by ensuring good rosters and reasonable hours of work.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) represents seafarers supplying the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as workers in Newcastle’s coal terminals, and port and tug workers in coal export ports in New South Wales and Queensland. The MUA is part of the Offshore Alliance ,which works to organise workers and improve conditions in the offshore oil and gas industry. The MUA position on renewable energy and a discussion of the Just Transition campaign are available here ; the MUA maintains a petition here .
California Offshore Wind: Workforce Impacts and Grid Integration is a report released on September 27 by the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. The report seeks to quantify what benefits for workers and communities would emerge from a major offshore wind power sector, given that the depth of California’s waters require floating platform wind installations, and floating wind is in its infancy. (According to the report, the only commercially operating project now is the 30 MW Hywind project , opened in 2017 off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland). The author interviewed union leaders, offshore wind industry participants, workforce training professionals, and port and transportation specialists for their firsthand accounts of the impacts of offshore wind, as well as analyzing the research to date on the economic and employment impacts of the fixed-bottom offshore wind industry around the world. A press release provides an executive summary of the report.
The conclusion: state policy intervention is a crucial determinant of the level of benefit for offshore wind. Excerpts from the report: The largest economic benefits would occur “if an in-state supply chain were developed for the primary components of wind turbine generators—blades, nacelles (hubs), and towers—as well as the floating platforms, thus creating thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs. But the offshore wind industry is highly globalized, with its supply chain centered in Europe, and by the mid-2020s, China is likely to become a major exporter of wind components. … policymakers should set a clear goal for offshore wind as part of the long-term renewable energy planning process (for example, a mandate for at least 8 GW over a decade). If the offshore wind planning process were to evolve in a more piecemeal basis, without strategic direction or fixed targets, wind developers and manufacturers would lack incentive to make major California investments…. Although the state has a strong workforce training system, including the construction industry’s state-certified apprenticeships, skills gaps are likely to be a challenge for offshore wind on the North Coast. The state should consider creating a High-Road Training Partnership (HRTP) for offshore wind to fill these gaps and broaden community access to offshore wind jobs. HRTPs are a new state program of industry‐specific training programs that prioritize job quality, equity, and environmental sustainability.”
On March 7, the government of the United Kingdom announced a new Offshore Wind Sector Deal which aspires to provide 30% of the U.K.’s electricity by 2030 and, according to the article in The Guardian, also promises that jobs in offshore wind will triple to 27,000 by 2030. The detailed government press release further states that the deal will increase the number of women in the industry, continue efforts by educational institutions to develop a sector-wide curriculum to facilitate skills transfer, prompt new targets for apprenticeships, and create an “Offshore Energy Passport”, recognised outside of the UK, so that workers will be able “to work seamlessly across different offshore sectors.” Unite the union reacted with this statement , which included a warning that the Energy Passport “should not be used to attack workers’ terms and conditions of employment, nor compromise health and safety regulations.”
In the same statement, Unite also called for a ‘level playing field’ for Scotland so that it can secure large-scale manufacturing contracts for its own offshore renewables sector. The concern follows the award of £2.8 billion in contracts for turbine manufacture to companies in Spain, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, rather than to the BiFab yards in Fife, Scotland. As reported in “Union fury as £2.8 billion wind turbine contract goes overseas” in the Greener Jobs Alliance newsletter (March/April), the GMB and Unite unions are calling on the Scotland’s Prime Minister and the Scottish Parliament to intervene, stating: “The Scottish Government and the public have a stake in BiFab and with it our renewables manufacturing future. We owe it to our communities to tackle the spaghetti bowl of vested interest groups that’s dominating our renewables sector and to fight for Scotland’s share’.
A 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.
Iron and Earth, the worker-led group which helps oil and gas industry workers transition to clean energy jobs, announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Beothuk Energy in mid-July 2016. Beothuk, headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is proposing to build six offshore wind farms in Atlantic Canada with a combined capacity of 4000+ MW of energy, and estimates that it will create 10 jobs for each MW produced. The MOU is not available online, but is reported to encourage apprenticeships and retraining in wind energy.
On August 8, the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of Iron and Earth began to crowdfund for a demonstration greenhouse project: to build a greenhouse incorporating solar and one other site-specific technology (micro-hydro, wind or geothermal) to power, heat and light a greenhouse year-round. Concurrently, the project will demonstrate a solution to food security issues by powering LED grow lights even in the winter months, and will offer a solar energy course to increase the region’s renewable energy skill set. Iron and Earth states that Newfoundland has no training programs for renewable energy, and a goal of this project is to retrain oil and gas workers. Bullfrog Power, the leading Canadian green energy provider, has pledged to match any donations made to the Greenhouse crowdfunder until the goal is reached; click here for details or to donate.