Originally published on the ECOreport
The clean energy sector employs more people than the oil sands, and the workforce grew another 14% last year. According to Clean Energy Canada’s latest Tracking the Energy Revolution, this sector attracted almost twice the number of investors than the fishing, forestry and agriculture sectors combined. It did not mention the sources of this money, but last year’s report showed 4 of the top 5 investment firms were German or Japanese. Foreign nations recognize the potential that the Harper administration has failed to perceive. Canada is a potential clean energy superpower.
Round Out The Canadian Economy
Under the Harper administration, Canada has become so closely identified with fossil fuels that the value of our currency fluctuates according to oil prices. This helped us when oil prices were high during the 2008 recession, but looks disastrous now that the bottom is dropping out of the market.
“Canadians are concerned that we’ve put too many eggs in the oil and gas basket, and the clean energy sector can help round out the Canadian economy. Clean energy should be considered one of the planks of our economic make-up. Investment is pouring in, and employers are hiring. This is good news, but with federal leadership it could be terrific,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.
She added, “The federal government’s neglect of renewables is in stark contrast to what is happening to the south of us. Obama has made clean energy a priority. He has the vision of the United States being a clean energy leader. He has put in place policies like the Clean Power Plan and the federal loan reserve has taken action to make the United States become an energy leader. These policies are why the United States was #1 in terms of investment dollars last year,” said Smith.
“Canada’s actually falling in our clean tech ranking. We are sixth in terms of our attractiveness for clean energy investments. (We were #5 last year). Canada really needs to make it a priority and get in the game, or we are going to lose out on a significant economic opportunity. We need a government in Ottawa that has a vision of being a clean energy leader.”
What The Government Could Do
“Every single major industry in Canada has received targeted federal government support, from the oil sands to the aerospace industry. We’re suggesting the clean energy sector get treated like every other industrial sector in Canada.”
The Muskrat dam project affords an excellent example of how the government can support renewables without needing to put up money. They guaranteed the loan needed to finance this project, enabling developers to obtain a lower rate.
“We also need support for exporting our clean energy products, like they’ve given to the pipelines and oil and gas sector,” said Smith.
She added that 75% of Canadians are already paying some kind of price on carbon, and the federal government needs to step in and make this a cohesive policy.
“We need a national clean transportation plan, that ensures there is good transit systems to reduce our carbon pollution.”
This would require infrastructure support, so that Alberta can pair up with the hydro battery from BC, Manitoba can provide power for Saskatchewan etc.
Opportunities For Provinces
This would open a tremendous opportunity for provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which rely on fossil fuels, to clean up their electricity.
“It is an economic opportunity and, in addition, they are going to be reducing their carbon pollution,” said Smith.
Other provinces have already been encouraging renewable energy. Ontario has led the nation, drawing $12.7 billion in renewable investments between 2010 and 2014. More than half the money was spent on wind and solar energy projects. The province has also formed more than 501 aboriginal partnerships (814 MW capacity) and 292 community participation projects (170 MW capacity). During this same period, Quebec received $8.6 billion in investment dollars, B.C. $5.2 billion and Alberta $2.3 billion.
Competing With Nations That Set Policies
These provincial advances are good, but Canada is competing with nations that set substantial policies on a national level. Thus while our clean tech sector grew 17% in 2013, other nations are growing faster and Canada’s slice of the global renewable pie shrunk. As Tracking The Energy Revolution explains:
“Each year, consulting giant Ernst & Young ranks 40 economies on how attractive they are to renewable-energy investors—based on a wide range of considerations, such as political support and stability of power grids. On this front, this past year, Canada’s rank remained unchanged at seven, behind China, the United States, Germany, India, and Japan.
When it comes to fostering a business climate of clean-tech innovation, Canada is punching above its weight. Despite a lack of strong supportive federal policies, the Global Cleantech Group and the WWF also ranked Canada seventh out of 40 economies—ahead of established cleantech leaders Germany and Japan. There’s general innovation support and that pulls up Canada’s ranking, but we’re not keeping pace on cleantech-specific drivers, and that shows in a lower ranking on commercialization.”
All images taken from Clean Energy Canada’s latest report Tracking the Energy Revolution.
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