With an election coming, updates on Alberta energy policy

pembina energy alberta 2019With a provincial election looming large in Alberta, the Pembina Institute released a new publication, Energy Policy Leadership in Alberta, on March 8,  with  this introduction: “Like most Albertans, we want to see the responsible development of oil and natural gas. The province’s policy and regulatory environment must ensure that our resources are produced in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. … Alberta’s future as an energy provider is directly linked to an ability to demonstrate a demand for its products in a decarbonizing world. With the right policies, Alberta can be competitive, attract investment, spur innovation and remain a supplier of choice in the global energy market.”  The 17-page document, intended to reach across political partisan thinking, continues by outlining 23 policy recommendations “to unleash innovative technologies, deploy renewables, promote energy efficiency, continue greening our fossil fuel industries, and reduce climate pollution.”

The Alberta government itself is active in getting out its story about its energy policies.  Most recently, the Alberta Climate Leadership Progress Report  was released in March 2019, documenting the fiscal year of April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 –  the first year Alberta collected a carbon levy.  The report states that a total of $1.19 billion of carbon revenue was invested back into the economy that year, and a press release of March 7  catalogues the impacts, including:

  • Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) investments have supported more than 5,000 jobs in 2017-18. CLP commitments, such as the Green Line in Calgary, will support a further 20,000 jobs in the coming years.
  • Combining 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years, a total of $978 million in rebates has made life better and more affordable for lower- and middle-income Albertans.
  • The solar industry in Alberta has grown by more than 800 per cent…. About 3,100 solar installations have been completed across the province.
  • Alberta is forecast to cut emissions by more than 50 megatonnes in 2030.

Further press releases from the government :

“Alberta solar on the rise“: (Feb. 15) announced a new contract for  solar electricity with Canadian Solar,  to run from 2021 to 2041,  at an average price of 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour, sufficient  to supply approximately 55 per cent of the government’s annual electricity needs while creating jobs in Southern Alberta.

Premier’s plan unlocks $2-billion energy investment” (Feb. 20) announced that the province will provide up to $80 million in royalty credits, funded through the Petrochemicals Diversification Program , to support phase one of the a Methanol production project by Nauticol Energy  . Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020, with a commercial operational date set for 2022; the government states that the project will create “as many as 15,500 construction jobs and an additional 1,000 permanent jobs.”

The Alberta Community Transit Fund announced a program which will provides $215 million over 4 years .  The press release lists 33  municipal projects awarded funding  on March 7, 2019.

Low Carbon Economy Future for Alberta

A new report from Greenpeace Canada projects that  “Alberta has the potential to create over one hundred and  forty-five thousand new jobs — 46,780 jobs in renewable energy, 68,400 jobs in energy efficiency, and 30,000-40,000 jobs in mass transit.”  100,000+ Jobs: Getting Albertans back to Work by building a Low-Carbon Future   (April 22), aims to “spark a creative conversation” by providing very specific examples of job creation opportunities by sector and across sectors, and calls for policy changes and actions to diversify the economy. The Alberta Green Economy Network and Gridworks Energy Group also cooperated on the report.    A poll taken by the Alberta Green Economy Network   shows that  58% of Albertans  want the carbon revenues announced in the recent budget to be directed toward green projects (28% want the money to be invested in research to reduce emissions from fossil fuel companies).

On the ground, a group of  oil sands workers have banded together as “Iron and Earth”,  to help laid-off workers transition to the renewable energy sector.    Their website  states  :  “ Together we can encourage more sustainable carbon-based extraction and build the renewable energy infrastructure we need to both meet the demands of consumers and diversify our energy economy so it isn’t so reliant on the boom and bust associated to a single resource.”  Its first project is a “Solar Skills” campaign to retrain 1,000 laid-off electricians from Alberta’s oil industry, to help build 100 solar installations on public buildings throughout the province.   The group, mostly in Alberta but also including members from Atlantic Canada,  states that it is non-partisan; it seeks supporters, donations, and possible partnerships with unions, including the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, as well as corporations.   See “Amid Price Plunge, North American Oil and Gas Workers Seek Transition to Renewable Sector”  from Truthout;  Iron and Earth and the dilemma of Alberta’s energy economy are presented in “Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada’s Energy Debate?” at DeSmog Blog (April 4).

Alberta News: Royalty Review, Economic Diversification funding, Incentives for Small-Scale Renewables

A new Royalty Review Framework was announced on January 29, 2016 along with the Final Report of the Advisory Panel  . The Panel recommended that existing royalty structures be maintained for 10 years on wells drilled before 2017, and that the current oil sands regime remain unchanged. Although the government states that it will create a “simpler, more transparent and efficient system that encourages job creation and investment”, Andrew Nikoforuk calls the result a “disaster” in a detailed review published in The Tyee  (Feb. 2) . The Alberta Federation of Labour participated in the Royalty Review meetings and roundtables; its submission, Royalty Policy is the Biggest Decision any Alberta Government has to Make      advocated Lougheed-era royalty rates equivalent to 30 per cent of market value, promotion of in-province upgrading and refining, and creation of an Alberta crown energy corporation for direct investment and equity participation in the industry. AFL President Gil McGowan reflects on his disappointment with the process in an article in The Tyee , (Feb. 10) .

On February 1, 2016 Alberta announced a new “Petrochemicals Diversification Program”, providing up to $500 million in incentives through royalty credits to encourage investment in energy processing facilities. The Government projects a job creation benefit of up to 3,000 new jobs during construction, and more than 1,000 jobs operational jobs. On February 5, 2016 the Alberta government announced $5 million  for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, to provide rebates up to a maximum of $300,000 per project, to encourage solar installations on municipal buildings. A similar program, the On-Farm Solar Management program, will provide $500,000 in provincial and federal funding to encourage farmers to install solar energy systems  . A Greenpeace blog on Febraury 9  reacts to these programs and argues for the benefits of distributed, small-scale renewable energy.

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).

New Canadian Association for Renewable Energy industry

The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity was launched on May 6, 2015.  Founding members are Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association, and Marine Renewables Canada. The council “aims to engage and educate Canadians on the opportunity to expand renewable electricity and strengthen our nation’s position as a global renewable-energy leader”.  Each of the associations continues to maintain its own website, and the new Council  website is available at http://renewableelectricity.ca/.

Wind and Solar Energy Updates: May 2015

Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 , published by the International Energy Agency,  “ provides a comprehensive analysis of long-term trends in the energy sector, centred on the technologies and the level of deployment needed”….. “Wind and solar PV have the potential to provide 22% of annual electricity sector emissions reduction in 2050 under the 2DS” (2 degree scenario). The report is accompanied by Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015, which finds that “ the deployment rate of most clean energy technologies is no longer on track to meet 2DS targets”. ….. “Policy certainty, incentives, regulation and international co-operation are required to meet stated ambitions and transform the global energy system”.

In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Energy released Enabling Wind Power Nationwide , which supports the U.S. ambition to expand utility-scale wind energy to all fifty states. The Enabling report highlights the the need for technological advancements, especially taller wind turbine towers and larger rotors, currently under development by the Energy Department and its partnering national labs, universities, and private-sector companies. The DOE Wind Program website is available here . A similar focus on the need for research and technological advancement is found in The Future of Solar Energy report  , released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative (MITEI) . Read also a related overview of current solar technologySolar Power for CO2 Mitigation  by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.

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.

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.

Investment in Canadian Clean Energy Mirrors Global Trend to Solar Pre-Eminence

Two new reports on investment in clean energy were released in March/April, both showing a global decline in investment levels, and that investment in solar now exceeds wind investment. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows a 14% decrease in global investment in renewables in 2013, but even so, renewables attracted $192 billion for new capacity and comprised 43.6% of newly installed generation capacity in 2013. The U.S. continues to rank first among developed economies for investment in renewable energy with $33.9 billion in 2013 – although this represents a 10% decrease, largely attributable to the uncertainty over the continuation of the Wind Tax Credit. Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom were the only G-20 countries in which investment increased. Canada ranked 6th amongst the G-20 countries with $6.4 billion investment, largely in wind energy ($3.6 billion) and solar energy ($2.5 billion) in 2013. See “Six Canadian companies shaping the future of clean energy” (March 27) in Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/six-canadian-clean-energy-companies/article17685931/?page=4. To read the Global survey, see Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014, produced jointly by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=2787&ArticleID=10824&l=en.

A related report was issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts, also utilizing Bloomberg data. Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013 Edition contrasts a 16% decline in renewables investment in developed markets of G-20 countries (led by the U.S. and EU) with a growth of 15% in non G-20 countries, led by such countries as Chile and Uruguay. Pew ranks China as the top destination for investors; solar capacity in China increased fourfold in 2013. See Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? At: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/press-releases/pew-report-finds-that-global-clean-energy-investment-declined-in-2013-85899543052. See also the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s April 2014 Electricity Monthly Update which shows that U.S. solar capactiy also increased by 418% between 2010 and 2014, as described at: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/24/us-solar-energy-capacity-grew-an-astounding-418-from-2010-2014/.

Solar Jobs Growing at Almost 20% in the U.S.

The U.S.-based Solar Foundation released its annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2013 on January 27 followed by the State Solar Jobs Map on February 11. According to the Solar Foundation there are now 142,000 workers employed in the solar industry. Employment has increased by 24,000 jobs since 2012 nationally, a growth rate of almost 20% (compared to a rate of 1.9% for the economy as a whole). Employment growth in the coming year is estimated at 15.6%. The average solar installer earns between $20.00 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour – comparable to skilled electricians and plumbers in the U.S. Wages for production and assembly workers averaged $15.00 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.

California continues to lead the U.S. in the number of solar workers at 47,223. And on Feb. 13th, after more than 3 years in construction, the world’s largest solar thermal energy project went live in California: the Ivanpah Solar Electricity Project, a joint effort between NRG, Google, and BrightSource Energy.

We have no comparable measures for the Canadian solar industry. The latest report appeared in November 2013, from the Renewing Futures research project, which  assessed the capacity of Canada’s skilled workforce to meet the labour needs of all electricity-related renewable energy systems, including  solar. It estimated that there were 41,000 employees in the entire renewable electricity sector in Canada in 2012. The latest labour market survey conducted by the Canadian Solar Industries Association was published in 2009.

National Solar Jobs Census 2013, the State Solar Jobs Map, and detailed reports for California, Arizona, and Minnesota are all available at: http://thesolarfoundation.org/

A summary of the Renewing Futures reports appeared in the November issue of Work and Climate Change Report at: https://workandclimatechangereport.org/2013/11/22/a-strategy-for-growth-for-human-resources-and-training-in-renewable-electricity-sectors/

Canadian Solar Industries Association is at: http://www.cansia.ca/market-intelligence/labour-force-market

Press release regarding Ivanpah is at: http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-achieves-commercial-operation#.UwIxw4Uz33V

How Green are Solar Jobs? Solar Scorecard Ranks Manufacturers on Working Conditions and Health and Safety

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Annual Scorecard measures and ranks how solar manufacturing companies around the world perform on sustainability and social justice benchmarks, including extended producer responsibility, emissions transparency, chemical reduction policies, use of prison labour and conflict minerals, water policies, and the presence of internal policies for worker health and safety. In 2013, despite low survey response levels, the Scorecard ranked 40 companies, representing over 80% of the market share in the photovoltaic industry.  Of those 40, only 7 have comprehensive internal policies that address worker rights and health and safety. These were: Astronergy (China), Sharp (Japan), SolarWorld (U.S.), SunPower (U.S.), Suntech (Japan), Trina (China), and Yingli (China). Solar Valley Toxics Coalition is a San Francisco-based advocacy group with the stated goals of reducing the use of toxic chemicals in the photovoltaic solar manufacturing industry, developing responsible recycling systems, and protecting workers throughout the global PV supply chain.     

Another source of information may soon be available. In May 2013, the U.S.-based Solar Energy Industry Association finalized a Solar Commitment – a voluntary agreement which sets out “solar-specific and general best practice provisions regarding the environment, labor, ethics, health and safety, and management practices of the company.” Labour guidelines include freedom of association, hours and wages, and protection from sexual harassment. Health and safety standards include machine protection, training, protection from toxic substances, and protection from discipline for raising safety concerns. Companies that sign on to the Solar Commitment must provide an annual report on key performance indicators – no reports have been released yet. Signatories to date are: Dow Solar, Gerhlicher Solar America, PV Recycling, SunEdison, SunPower, Suntech, Trina, and Yingli Solar. 


Solar Valley Toxics Coalition Solar Scorecard is available athttp://www.solarscorecard.com/2013/2013-SVTC-Solar-Scorecard.pdf

 Background  discussion, and links to solar companies featured in  the SVTC Scorecard is at CleanTechnica at: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/08/13/silicon-valley-toxics-coalitions-2013-solar-scorecard-just-release/

SEIA Solar Commitment Factsheet is at:http://www.seia.org/sites/default/files/Solar%20Commitment%20factsheet_2013.pdf

Global Clean Energy Status Report Includes a Call for Carbon-Pricing and a Phase-Out of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The International Energy Agency report for 2013 to the Clean Energy Ministerial provides a comprehensive overview of the global state of clean energy: extent of use, what is being done to encourage market penetration, and what technological advances have occurred for each form of clean energy. Canada is one of the 28 countries surveyed. 

The report also introduced the Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII), which shows how much carbon dioxide is emitted, on average, to provide a given unit of energy. The index remains almost unchanged between 1990 and 2010.  

The “positive” news for 2012 include sales of hybrid electric vehicles, which passed the 1 million mark, increased installation rate of solar photovoltaic systems, and falling costs of most clean energy technologies.  The report gives policy recommendations for each technology type, but overall, it concludes: “the true cost of energy must be reflected in consumer prices, through carbon pricing and the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies. Technologies like electric vehicles, wind and solar will need support for several years more, but policies should be flexible and transparent. More stringent and broader energy performance standards, building codes and fuel economy standards can drive energy efficiency.” 

The press release from April 17th, with links, is at http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2013/april/name,36789,en.html .   

Fullest coverage is at the Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013 website at http://www.iea.org/etp/tracking/. The Report document is at http://www.iea.org/publications/TCEP_web.pdf .