A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation takes a deep dive into the employment gains that could be achieved through the rapid electrification of Canada’s economy, driven by the expansion of sustainable power generation and infrastructure. The new report, “Shifting Power: Zero-Emissions Electricity Across Canada by 2035”, estimates that 75,000 net new jobs would be created by the expansion of clean electricity generation and use over a 15-year period. This would contribute substantially to the attainment of Canada’s net-zero objectives, as well as to strengthening employment outcomes for Canadian workers as the economy shifts toward sustainable energy sources.
Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford provided a supplementary analysis for the report, addressing the economic and employment opportunities associated with decarbonized electrification. He notes those benefits would occur through several complementary channels:
- Jobs in developing and operating renewable generation systems (including solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power). Construction of these projects will create hundreds of thousands of person-years, with thousands more ongoing jobs in operation and maintenance.
- New work in expanding and upgrading the electric grid. Major investments will be required to upgrade transmission facilities, install modern control and regulating equipment and prepare the grid for the more complex and variable power distribution requirements associated with dispersed renewable generation.
- Manufacturing of capital equipment and other material inputs to renewable generation projects. With appropriate value-added industrial strategies to enhance Canada’s industrial footprint in these growing industries, thousands of permanent jobs would be created manufacturing wind turbines, solar power equipment, transmission equipment and materials, and other capital inputs to electrification.
- Installation and maintenance of new equipment that uses electricity in various industrial and consumer applications — everything from residential heating systems to electric vehicles to large industrial power systems.
- Jobs in new industries attracted to Canada by the availability of clean, reliable and competitive electricity. Canada’s abundance of primary renewable electricity resources would position us at the forefront of the global transition to sustainable electric energy. That will stimulate interest and investment by industrial firms and financial investors from around the world.
Overstated and misleading warnings that shifting away from fossil fuel use will inevitably cause major job losses and dislocation have already been disproved by the progress in decarbonizing electricity that has already been made. Stanford notes that reliance on fossil fuels in electricity generation in Canada has already fallen by one-third since the turn of the century – yet the electricity generation and distribution industry has created 10,000 net new jobs over that same period. And since renewable energy sources, in general, are more labour-intensive than fossil fuels, this continuing shift can be expected to produce more net job gains in the years ahead.
Jim Stanford’s full commentary for the Shifting Power report is posted here. For more details, please see the Suzuki Foundation’s full report, “Shifting Power: Zero-Emissions Electricity Across Canada by 2035”.