By: Stephen Wu
GLOBE-Net, August 14, 2012- Clean energy
projects are offering exciting new opportunities with respect to
long-term economic development and jobs for rural communities
impacted by the mountain pine beetle epidemic in British
This is one of the main conclusions of a four-month research
project conducted by GLOBE Advisors for the BC Southern Interior
Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC) and its project partners.
The research project sought to assess the job creation potential
of independent power producer (IPP) and community-owned clean
energy projects throughout British Columbia. The report, "Powering our Province", identifies the various
business and workforce needs of - and the challenges faced by -
clean energy companies in the province.
Using a value-chain approach and an
extensive series of in-depth interviews with industry, community,
and government leaders, GLOBE Advisors identified a number of clean
energy opportunities that rural communities could seize upon to
create new well-paying jobs.
Rural Opportunities in Clean Energy
With 74 IPP projects in operation and another 52 in various
stages of development, clean energy solutions offer long-term
employment and business opportunities for rural and First Nations
communities, notes the report.
Even more potential exists for community energy-related projects
that not only create immediate employment opportunities, but also
provide long-term energy security and cost savings from the
transition away from a dependence on expensive diesel fuel.
Services required by clean energy companies range from skilled
trades for clean energy project construction to scientific research
for advanced biofuels. The report identifies five immediate
business and employment opportunity areas specifically for rural
communities related to clean energy development. These are:
1) Skilled trades and
2) Community and First Nations
3) Scientific and environmental
4) Plant operations and
5) Indirect business support.
Companies interviewed by GLOBE indicated that they had a strong
preference for sourcing their labour and business needs close to
where their projects are located. Sourcing locally provides
tangible benefits including building long-term relationships with
host communities and significant operational cost savings.
In addition, clean energy technology companies, such as advanced
biofuel production companies and wood pellet manufacturers
rely on the support of rural communities, as they provide an
all-important link to the required feedstock materials. For
example, Burnaby-based Lignol Corporation, one of Canada's leading
cellulosic ethanol production companies, hopes to construct
bio-refineries in rural parts of the British Columbia in order to
optimize its supply chain.
Developments like these could create opportunities for skilled
workers looking to transition their skill sets from sectors such as
forestry into clean energy. Some key occupations identified include
millwrights, electricians, woodcutters, and foresters, many of
which can be sourced from industry-based communities.
Other more technical services such as power plant operations,
wind turbine maintenance, and environmental monitoring would be
available in some smaller communities, provided they had access to
Strong Leadership Required
Sourcing locally from smaller, more rural communities is not
always possible. While some communities with an existing industrial
base may have the necessary skilled workers (such as carpenters,
pipefitters, heavy-duty mechanics, and machine operators), many do
not have the necessary skilled workers or infrastructure to support
clean energy projects.
Providing the necessary education and training to individuals
interested in entering this sector is critical. Smaller communities
in a given region can also work together to coordinate business and
workforce capacity in order to attract project developers and show
their readiness to participate in the clean energy project
The report stresses the need for rural communities to show
proactive leadership with respect to clean energy development by
evaluating the feasibility of community energy projects in order to
meet their own energy needs; to advance local economic development
opportunities; to promote environmental and community health
benefits; and to improve energy security.
This report was funded in part by the Province of BC and the
Federal Rural Secretariat as part of their "Green
Energy as an Economic Toolkit" project.
To read the full report, click here.