The Ontario Government’s decision to promote clean renewable energy has proven to be an effective catalyst for creating ten’s of thousands of green collar jobs across the province.
The controversial procurement program known as the Feed In Tariff (FIT) was launched in fall of 2009 by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), offering to pay private energy producers generous rates for electricity generated by renewable sources (i.e. solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc.). The power purchase agreements are assigned for twenty year periods between the power producers and OPA. In order for renewable energy power producers to qualify for these long term premiums, over half of the materials they use to build their clean energy power plants must be made in Ontario. This local content requirement rule had created a gold rush-like mentality for international renewable energy component manufactures who flocked to the region to qualify, while bringing thousands of jobs with them.
Almost three years after the program was initially introduced, the number of new green collar jobs created in the region is rumored to have surpassed 50,000, with many more expected to be formed in 2012 and beyond as new projects come on line.
Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers, with operations in China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and the United States, has opened a solar panel manufacturing plant in Guelph, Ontario. Once operating at full capacity, the multi-million dollar complex is expected to supply 500 new jobs to locals. The Company recently sold 86 megawatts of solar projects for $470 million to TransCanada Corporation. This portfolio of large photovoltaic projects will encompass approximately 900 acres of land while supplying hundreds of local residents with installation, service and maintenance jobs, while supporting hundreds more stakeholders for decades to come.
The border Township of Welland, Ontario had been chosen by Asian corporate giant Juli New Energy to manufacture it’s first North American made, high energy output solar modules. Juli chose to partner with existing solar module manufacturer OSM SolarForm to lead this endeavor, partially due the high caliber of skilled labor OSM SolarForm had employed at it’s 90k square foot facility. With a maximum capacity of 120 MW of production per annum, the plant is not only supplying the Ontario solar market, but is now shipping significant quantities of product into the United States. The OSM SolarForm plant also manufactures modules for Korean conglomerate Symphony Solar in addition to the largest fully integrated solar company in the world, LDK from China. With a current work force of approx 100 local employees, the facility is expected to triple its work force by the end of 2012.
Mr. Brent O’Connor, Director of Energy Development for SolarBox Inc., a Georgetown, Ontario based solar energy component distributor comments “2011 was a great year for us, but 2012 is expected to far surpass it based on commitments we have from home owners and solar contractors from across the Province.” O’Connor continued “Now that energy developers have had enough time to get their government FIT contracts approved, raise financings and plan the construction of their projects, we’re expecting our sales to quadruple in the Ontario market this year alone… Ontario is still very much the place to be.”
In addition to new jobs being created, the FIT program is facilitating many new opportunities for trained professionals who are now reapplying their job skills and work experience.
A number of lawyers who specialized in real estate law have added renewable energy development to their practices. Some roofers have made the shift into becoming solar panel installers. Commercial shelving manufacturers are now converting their steel fabricating shops over to building racking systems used for solar panels. Logistics companies specializing in the transporting of various freights are now focusing on gaining new contracts to ship solar panels and wind turbines. Construction crane operators are now booking rooftop solar construction projects and are also being asked to use their equipment to erect wind turbines. Even once abandoned automotive manufacturing plants have been converted over to building wind turbines while hiring back many of the same personnel who once worked at these very factories on automotive assembly lines, before being laid off.
Thousands of green sector stakeholders are now officially beginning to feel the positive effects that the Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act was designed to bestow. It is reassuring to know that as these new green collar jobs and the new opportunities the sector brings with it increase, so too will other new ways of doing business.
Unarguably Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government took a brave step in implementing a private energy procurement program. In doing so, not only has our Premier successfully begun to wean the Province off of it’s dependency on dirty electricity generated by harmful CO2 emitting sources, but has successfully implemented a job creation program that will leave the rest of North America green with envy.