Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Canadian Clean Energy Grows Despite Ruling Conservatives

In Canada the clean energy sector has shown remarkable growth despite the absence of support from the federal Conservatives. Supporters of fossil fuels often use employment benefits as one of their chief arguments, however, in Canada, new employment numbers indicate that there are now more jobs in clean energy than in the tar sands.

According to a report titled "Tracking the Energy Revolution" from the climate think tank, Clean Energy Canada, over the last five years the nation has seen $25 billion worth of investments in the green energy sector. This has translated to a 37 percent job increase. There are now more than 23,700 people working in clean energy compared to 22,340 who work in oil sands related industries.

Clean energy is big business in Canada outpacing the growth of almost all other sectors. Despite the federal government's support for fossil fuels, green power will continue to grow Canada's economy. This has prompted some environmentally minded economists and policy analysts to question the Harper government's position. Federal government support for clean energy could accelerate this growth as would acknowledging the true cost of fossil fuels.

Without strong support from the federal government wind, solar, hydro and biomass has expanded by 93 percent since 2009. Much of this growth is attributable to supportive policies from a handful of provinces. While Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have shown strong support for renewables, Alberta and Saskatchewan are laggards.

As explained in the report, this growth comes despite the fact that clean energy is not a priority for Canada's ruling Conservatives. Government support is essential yet it is not forthcoming from this federal government. If we look at the rise of Canada's industrial might, the federal government has played a key role.

Most of Canada's clean energy investment comes from outside of the country, primarily Japan and Germany.

As explained by Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada, "Every major industrial sector in Canada – from the aerospace industry to the oil sands – has gotten off the ground with support from the federal government. But in the clean-energy sector, the federal government is really missing in action."

While the federal government all but ignores clean energy they continue to invest substantial sums in fossil fuel subsidies. Smith went on to explain that the federal government also uses up all of its diplomatic capital on advancing the interests of the oil sector.

The report indicates that Ottawa needs to do four things:

1. Provide tax supports for renewables
2. Provide infrastructure support for clean energy projects
3. Provide infrastructure support for electrical transmission lines
4. Put a price on carbon

The report suggests that Canada has what it takes to be a clean energy leader, what the nation does not have is the political will from elected representatives at the federal level.

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