Alberta’s Oil Workers Are Shifting To Renewable Energy Jobs

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — After nearly a decade of riding Canada’s oil boom, drilling contractor Jennifer Turner found herself low on work, like thousands of other employees in the fossil fuel business left jobless following a plunge in oil prices.

Today, she helps unemployed oil workers find jobs in the burgeoning solar power industry. She hopes it’s part of a broader transition to adopt more renewable energy in the North American nation with the world’s third-largest oil reserves.

“Workers risk getting left behind,” said Turner, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group Iron and Earth, based in Alberta.

In fact, many require “minimal training” to repurpose their expertise for renewable energy projects, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Skills like welding, machinery repair and project management can be transferred from the oil industry to solar power installation or other renewable enterprises if workers get the right support, said Turner who still occasionally contracts for oil companies.

From the sands of Saudi Arabia, to the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Angola’s coastal waters, low oil prices, concerns over climate change and the falling cost of clean power are leading investors and governments to reconsider energy policies.

“Workers risk getting left behind.”Jennifer Turner, energy worker

Finding jobs for ex-oil workers is key to smoothing the path towards renewable energy and building public support for that shift, officials and campaigners say.

The Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, adopted in 2015 by close to 200 governments, notes that countries will take into account “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce” in their efforts to limit global warming.

High emissions

Since oil prices collapsed in 2014, Canada has lost more than 40,000 jobs in oil, gas and related industries, showed data released last year by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry group.

Extracting about 3.6 million barrels of oil daily, Canada is the largest foreign petroleum exporter to the United States and the world’s seventh largest producer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Partially due to its oil industry, Canada is one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitters among the wealthy countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Canada’s government has pledged to improve its record on climate change by investing in renewable energy, taxing carbon emissions and other policies.

‘Tipping point’

In Alberta, which produces about 80 percent of Canada’s oil, renewable energy capacity is doubling roughly every two years, said Jim Sandercock, chair of the alternative energy

Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel

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