Northeast BC: hotbed for clean energy jobs

Trent Ernst, Editor


While the Lower Mainland has the most jobs in clean energy (at 3300), Northeast BC has the most jobs per capita, with 33 out of every thousand people working in the Clean Energy field.

This, according to the Pembina Institute, who recently released their Clean Energy Economy map of BC.

Altogether, there are 14,100 people working in clean energy in BC on 156 separate clean energy projects in operation and under construction.

These projects include wind and solar power, run-of-river and large hydro, biomass and biogas, all of which are powered through renewable sources, have relatively small carbon footprints and contribute most of the energy to our electricity grid, says Pembina.

The Northeast has six major energy projects that are considered clean energy, from the WAC Bennett Dam near Hudson’s Hope to Tumbler Ridge’s own Quality Wind Project. Couple that with the Northeast’s low population and you have the highest per capita employment in clean energy.

Also on the list is Pattern Development’s Meikle Wind project.

The Southwest Corner of BC has nearly 50 clean energy projects, employing 3300 people, but, because the population there is so high, the per capita number is only one person per thousand working in clean energy.

Penelope Comette, Director of the clean energy economy program for Pembina, writes on the Institute’s website that many people in the province consider clean energy a “boutique” sector, but this is far from the case.

“Despite the numerous benefits offered by the clean energy economy, including its significant export potential, it is often underestimated or overlooked by the province in favour of conventional industries, such as fossil fuel exports,” says Comette. “These industries are not exclusive of one another, but our current economic development plans tend to favour conventional energy sources and exports over growing the clean energy economy.”

However, she says that prioritizing clean energy can help future proof the province. “Clean energy is much better for the environment with a fraction of the carbon footprint of conventional sources of energy; it can help prepare our province for changing market conditions that favour low-carbon energy solutions; and an over-reliance on fossil fuel exports is risky at a time when other countries and regions are considering fossil fuel-limiting policies.”

Comette says BC has already taken some forward looking policies, like the carbon tax and the clean energy requirement for new electricity. These have laid the groundwork for clean energy in BC.

But, she says, progress has stalled since these policies were introduced in 2008 and 2010, respectively. “B.C. needs to go further faster with clean energy in order to meet our climate targets, adapt to a climate-friendly political landscape and grab a share of the growing clean energy export market. Supportive policies will help.”