Job losses feared as Ontario government cancels renewable energy contracts

On  July 13, the Province of Ontario announced the immediate cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects, calling them “unnecessary and wasteful” .  In “Inside Ontario’s clean energy contract cancellations”  by GreenTech Media  (July 26), the CEO of the Canadian Solar Industry Association estimates that  Ontario will lose 6,000 jobs and half a billion dollars of investment as a result, although the general tone of the article displays confidence in the unstoppable momentum of clean energy.  The decision, however, has thrown the industry into confusion, disappointed some consumers, and is seen as a blow to Ontario’s reputation amongst investors.

A sampling of reaction:  “Green shift to green slump: How trade decisions and electoral politics are crippling the vision of a clean Canadian power play”    in the Globe and Mail (Aug. 3)

Solar companies may exit Ontario for Alberta after Doug Ford kills rebate program”    from CBC News

Renewable Energy stocks slide as Ontario vows to scrap clean- power projects” in the Globe and Mail  (July 13)

Clean power advocates disappointed by defiant in the face of Ford’s sweeping cuts”   (July 17) in the National Observer

Cancellation of Energy Contracts Punishes Famers, School Boards, Municipalities and First Nations”   a press release from the Canadian Solar Industries Association.  CanWEA also responded to the announcements with a disjointed compilation of links about the benefits of wind energy  (July 13) .

wind turbine and cowsOne high profile  example of the cancelled projects:  the White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County, owned by German company WPD ,  which was first approved in 2010 and was weeks away from completion when it was cancelled by Bill 2, The Urgent Priorities Act.  Local reaction appeared in  The Picton Gazette , and the National Observer published an extensive four part report, “Inside one Ontario town’s  decade long wind war”  .    CBC News published  “Ford government’s plan to cancel wind project could cost taxpayers over $100M, company warns”  , and even the conservative National Post published “John Ivison: Wind turbine decision says Doug Ford’s Ontario is closed for business”   (July 23), calling it a “bone-headed”decision.  Activist group has posted on online petition, “Save the White Pines project”  .



U.S. energy employment report: statistics by gender, age, race, and union status

USEER May 2018 reportThe 2018 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) was released in May, reporting that the traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors employ approximately 6.5 million Americans, with a job growth rate of approximately 133,000 net new jobs in 2017 – approximately 7% of total U.S. new job growth.   The report provides detailed employment data for energy sectors including Electric Power Generation and Fuels Production (including biofuels, solar, wind, hydro and nuclear) and Electricity Transmission, Distribution and Storage. It also includes two energy end-use sectors: Energy Efficiency and Motor Vehicle production (including alternative fuel vehicles and parts production).  It is important to note that, unlike many other sources, this survey includes only direct jobs, and not indirect and induced jobs.

In addition to overall employment totals, the report provides an in-depth view of the hiring difficulty, in-demand occupations, and demographic composition of the workforce – including breakdowns by gender, age, race and by union composition.  As an example for solar electric power generation: “about a third of the solar workforce in 2017 was female, roughly two in ten workers are Hispanic or Latino, and under one in ten are Asian or are Black or African American. In 2017, solar projects involving PV technologies had a higher concentration of workers aged 55 and over, compared to CSP technologies.”

The previous USEER reports for 2016  and 2017  were compiled and published by the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 2018, under the Trump Administration, two non-profit organizations,  the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative, took over the task of compiling the data, using the identical survey instrument developed by the DOE.  Timing was coordinated so that year over year comparisons with the precious surveys are possible.  Peer review of the report was performed by Robert Pollin, (Political Economy Research Institute) and  James Barrett, (Visiting Fellow, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy).  The overview website, with free data tables at the state level, is here   .

The future of wind energy in Alberta


From CanWEA website, showing the state of Alberta’s wind market as of 2017

The Province of Alberta is reinventing its energy supply with its Renewable Electricity Program, which targets 30% of the province’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. To take stock of the province’s existing strengths, as well as gaps and opportunities related to that goal, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) commissioned the Delphi Group to study the existing resources, including workforce skills, to support the growth of the wind industry. The resulting report,  Alberta Wind Energy Supply Chain Study , concludes that if wind energy were to meet 90 per cent of the government’s commitment, it would result in an estimated $8.3 billion of investment in new wind energy projects in the province and almost 15,000 job years of employment by 2030.  Many of the skills and occupations required to develop wind projects – such as engineering, construction, operations and maintenance – are transferable from the oil and gas sector. CanWEA is urging the government to provide a long-term renewable energy procurement policy which would encourage investment .

The report is summarized by the Energy Mix, by the National Observer , and in a CanWEA press release.  CanWEA also provides current profiles of provincial wind markets – Alberta’s is here .  CanWEA’s annual conference was held in Montreal from October 3 to 5; the closing press release is here.

The National Observer story features the wind turbine technician program at Lethbridge Community College, and states that in January 2017, a third of the students who entered the College’s wind turbine technician program came from careers in the oil industry.

Wind and Solar industry groups report healthy growth

wind turbine worker inside.jpg

Photo from U.S. Creative Commons license. 

Wind installations in Canada have grown by 18% in the last 4 years, according to the latest statistics released in February by  the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). There are now 285 wind farms, made up of 6,288 wind turbines in Canada, representing about $1.5 billion in investment.  Most wind projects are in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. The greatest growth occurred in Nova Scotia in 2016, mostly driven by the province’s community feed-in tariff program. An article by the UBC Sauder School of Business summarizes the results with emphasis on British Columbia:   “B.C. Lags during banner year for wind power” .

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)   also released new statistics,  on  Feb. 9, showing that wind has surpassed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electric capacity  in the U.S., and the fourth largest overall.  Texas is the undisputed leader in wind energy, with 25% of the national capacity and nearly 25% of the jobs – including at 40 wind manufacturing facilities in the state. The industry report points out that “Of the $13.8 billion invested by the U.S. wind industry last year, $10.5 billion was invested in low-income counties”, making rural and Rust Belt America among the greatest beneficiaries of wind power development.

The European industry body, WindEurope,  released its latest statistical report on  February  9th, showing “The cost of wind power continues to plummet, and this is particularly the case for the European offshore sector, which has met and exceeded its 2020 price targets by a substantial margin, and five years early. ” In “Off-shore wind moves in to energy’s mainstream”, the New York Times provides an overview, mostly of Europe, and observes, “Offshore wind still represents only a tenth of new generation in the sector, …but investment in the industry nearly tripled in the five years to 2015.”

Finally, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)   published its annual statistics report in the first  week of February;   the 4-page statistical overview  is here  . It reveals that  China is leading the way in installed wind power (34.7% of global installed power) , followed well behind by the United States ( 16.9%) , Germany (10.3%), and India (5.9%) .  Canada ranks 7th  with 2.4% of global installed capacity.

SOLAR INDUSTRY:    According to the 2017 edition of the Solar Jobs Census  released by the Solar Foundation on  February 7, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in the U.S. in 2016 – bringing the total number of Americans working in the industry to 260,000.  A  Bloomberg News summary of  the report ,  “U.S. Solar Industry clamors for workers as employment climbs by 25% “, quotes the Executive Director of the Solar Foundation : “Solar manufacturing, installation, and operation now “employ more [Americans] than Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple combined…These are well-paying, family-sustaining jobs with low barriers to entry, with average wages at US$26 per hour for solar installation.”

The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also bullish on the industry in its 4th Quarter “US Solar Market Insight” report , conducted by GTM Research and the SEIA. It shows a record-breaking number of solar installations in 2015, so that the U.S. now hosts more than 1.3 million solar photovoltaic installations with enough capacity to power 8.3 million households. The report states: “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives.”

For a comprehensive overview of employment statistics for all sectors of the renewable energy industry, see the Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet, released by the Environmental and Energy Institute (Washington, D.C.) in February.  The Fact Sheet compiles statistics from  many sources, though it relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Energy report, U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) (January 2017),  and the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review (2016) from  International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) .