Clean energy one of Canada’s fastest-growing industries

Nearly 300,000 Canadians were directly employed in clean energy in 2017

Canada’s clean-energy sector is growing faster than the economy as a whole and is rivalling some of the better-known industries for jobs, a new report shows.

Clean Energy Canada, a think-tank at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, released a study Thursday it commissioned to try to paint the first real picture of an industry it feels nobody knows much about but that is critically important to the future both in terms of climate change and the economy.

“Other countries actually keep this data and Canada doesn’t,” said executive director Merran Smith.

Clean energy isn’t actually classified as a sector in Canada, so the report pulled together the data by compiling information about the various components that make up clean energy.

READ MORE: B.C. examines new directions for renewable electricity projects

People talk about the clean-technology sector often but clean energy encompasses more than high-tech firms making hydrogen fuel cells and electric cars, said Smith.

She said clean energy includes everything from the production and transmission of renewable electricity to transit workers and construction workers making buildings more energy-efficient. So a hydroelectric-dam operator, a bus driver, and the person who installs a high efficiency furnace would all be included in Clean Energy Canada’s job count.

All told, the study concluded, nearly 300,000 Canadians were directly employed in clean energy in 2017, nearly 100,000 more than Statistics Canada data said worked in mining, quarrying, and oil-and-gas extraction. There are 7.5 times as many people working in clean energy as in forestry and logging.

Smith said the goal of the report is to show Canadians just how big a piece of the economic pie clean energy represents.

“We were surprised to find how big the sector is,” she said. “What we found is that we’re missing more than half the picture when we talk about energy in Canada. We think of oil and gas, we think of pipelines, we think of Alberta, and we are missing this clean-energy sector which is in every province across the country.”

The study concluded clean energy accounted for about three per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2017, or around $57 billion. It grew almost five per cent annually between 2010 and 2017, outpacing the 3.6-per-cent growth of the economy as a whole.

By comparison, oil and natural gas contribute about six per cent of Canada’s GDP; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting account together for about 2.1 per cent and the hotel and restaurant industry 2.3 per cent.

The number of jobs in clean energy grew 2.2 per cent a year between 2010 and 2017, compared to 1.4 per cent for the total number of jobs in Canada. Investment in the industry went from $21 billion in 2010 to $35.3 billion in 2017.

“This is a good-news story for Canada,” Smith said.

Canadian governments, she said, are often quite focused on selling Canada’s natural resources and must do better at marketing Canada as a clean-energy giant as well. Many Canadian companies find better opportunities to sell their products overseas than they do in Canada.

Policies to get Canadians more focused on using cleaner energy would go a long way to supporting the sector even more, said Smith.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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