An industry group says Alberta’s decision to pause approvals of recent renewable energy projects is putting the lives of 1000’s of employees on hold.
Iron and Earth, a gaggle that assists fossil fuel employees transition to the renewables industry, says the United Conservative Party’s announcement last week for a moratorium on renewable projects will wipe out a season on work.
Director Luisa Da Silva says those employees have bills to pay and lots of are prone to leave the province in the event that they are essentially asked to not work.
Alberta government figures suggest about 10,000 people work in solar and wind installation. Although that figure is dwarfed by fossil fuel employment, jobs in renewables are estimated to be growing at about 10 per cent a 12 months, while oil and gas jobs have been declining for years.
In early 2022, there have been 3,425 unfilled positions within the industry.
“I don’t know what their considering is,” Da Silva said. “But I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to not work and to mainly shut down the industry for six months.”
Meanwhile, video has surfaced of Rob Anderson, Premier Danielle Smith’s chief of staff, describing the renewable industry as a scam.
The video was made in 2021, before Smith re-entered politics in May 2022.
Smith’s office has not disavowed the video, which appears to have been made for The Western Standard, a conservative news outlet. Global News has not verified this video.
Nagwan Al-Guneid, the Opposition NDP’s utilities critic, says Anderson’s remarks are an insult to the 1000’s of Albertans who work within the industry.
“What are we doing?” Al-Guneid asked in a news release Wednesday. “Since when does the federal government shut down a booming industry and send these confusing signals to investors and Albertans? It’s cancelling good trades jobs and impacting our popularity as an investment destination. It’s mind-boggling.
“These comments are insulting. They insult the 1000’s of hard-working Alberta tradespeople and businesspeople who provide low-cost, low-emission electricity for homes, businesses and farms across Alberta.”
The UCP government says its decision is only a pause to determine a plan. Nonetheless, Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said he thinks it “sounds like a signal to investors to not put money into renewables in Alberta.”
“It’s a signal to the federal government: ‘We’re not focused on attending to net-zero,’” he added.
Before this moratorium announcement, the province could have made the argument it has already switched from coal to natural gas, Bratt said. He added the provincial government could also argue that it goes to be easier for hydro-powered provinces like B.C., Quebec or Manitoba to succeed in the federal government’s goal of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 than for provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan.
On Tuesday, federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said billions of dollars in federal tax credits and grants will likely be tied to progress toward Ottawa’s goal for a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.
Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s environment and guarded areas minister, said on Tuesday that she believes Wilkinson “announcing in a press conference a threat to withhold funding isn’t really the fitting strategy to start a conversation.”
“Starting out from a position like that isn’t the strategy to enter a discussion in good faith.”
“(The Alberta government’s) argument has been greatly undercut by the actions that they’ve taken over the past week,” Bratt said. “Because now it appears not only are they going to make the case: ‘We’ve made progress, we’re attempting to make progress, this is just too tough a timeline for us, other provinces have it easier,’ to, ‘No, we’re going to stop progress on attending to net-zero and the way dare you stop the flow of federal funds to our province for green energy once we’re going to stop green energy in its tracks.’”
Wilkinson told Global News on Wednesday that he agrees with the underlying point that lawmakers “have to be concerned about affordability for people,” but noted he also believes Alberta’s history shows the province is greater than able to taking over the renewables challenge.
He referred to the transition from coal to natural gas — a process that was finished seven years before the estimated completion time, and said Alberta has the fastest-growing renewables market within the country.
“What we’re saying to the province of Alberta is, ‘Look, this needs to be done affordably, it needs to be done in a way that ensures reliability — we wish to work with you on that. But at the tip of the day, seizing those economic opportunities that all of us need to see (and) creating 1000’s of fresh jobs requires a clean grid,’” Wikinson said.
As for methods to handle the situation going forward, Wilkinson said the parties need to sit down down together to debate concerns and adaptability and to search out an answer that works for everybody.
“I believe that fairly than talk past one another, I believe we’d like to check with one another,” he said.