Are Renewables Jobs the “Fast Food” Employment of the Energy Transition?
4:35PM Nov 13, 2023
Dr. Chris Keefer
environmental impact assessment
investment tax credit
Welcome back to decouple that's not the voice I was expecting. Um Dylan moon and Dr. Keefer is on a plane this week we are taking you to the seat of the federal government in Canada, Ottawa in Ontario, Dr. Kiefer's home province, where he was invited back to testify before parliament on nuclear energy and its role in the elusive just transition. Here's what he said.
We will now move to Canadians for nuclear energy, Mr. Christopher Kiefer president for five minutes.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss Canada's response to the inflation Reduction Act and why nuclear is essential to achieving a just transition for fossil fuel workers. My name is Chris Keefer. I'm an ER doctor and the president of the grassroots advocacy group Canadians for nuclear energy. Our organization led the campaign to refurbish the Pickering nuclear station which will save over 3000 unionized jobs in the green energy sector. We find ourselves at an important historical moment, Canada's is working out its response to the inflation Reduction Act, which is mobilizing over $600 billion of climate action investments. tied to these investments are provisions that attempt to ensure that the Clean Energy Transition creates high quality employment for display displaced fossil fuel workers. These measures include prevailing wage legislation and incentives to use registered apprentices and a union workforce. Why are these provisions necessary and will they work? In the words of New York Times labor reporter Noam Schieber, the green economy is shaping up to look less like the industrial workplace that lifted workers into the middle class in the 20th century, and more like an Amazon workhouse with grueling work schedules few unions, middling wages and limited benefits. A University of Massachusetts study estimates that average salaries and benefits within the renewable energy sector are 36% lower than the fossil fuel industry. What explains these differences? Jim Harrison, the director of renewable energy for the utility workers of Union of America says it's a lot of transient work work that is marginal, precarious and very difficult to organize. Two thirds of the jobs are low, skilled and most are non union. The statement is backed by data. According to Statistics Canada unionization rates in wind and solar are only 13% Compared to 54% in the fossil fuel industry, and 84% in the nuclear industry. Another challenge is the lack of domestic jobs in the wind and solar supply chain. According to data from the International Energy Agency, China controls every major stage of the wind and solar supply chain. For example, 97% of solar wafers and 79% of the world's Paula silicon is produced in China, much of it using forced Uyghur labor in Xinjiang province, where the Canadian Parliament voted 266 to zero, that a genocide of the Uighur people is taking place. The inflation Reduction Act is attempting to restore some of these industries and the resulting jobs. But can we subsidize these supply chains back to North America at scale. You can print money and offer tax credits but you can't print the cheap coal fired energy forced Uyghur labor and lacks environmental standards that give China a near unassailable competitive advantage in the wind and solar supply chain. The challenges are real but there is a bright path forward for made in Canada just transition and it is nuclear. Ontario provides a fascinating case study of a clean energy transition without any sacrifice in income or benefits for energy workers. Our nuclear powered coal phase out began in 1973. When instead of continuing to build more massive coal stations, we turned to Canada nuclear reactor technology and commissioned 20 large reactors in just 22 years, which today provide nearly 60% of Ontario's electricity carbon free. This resulted in a just transition for Ontario's coal workers, many of whom moved into higher quality jobs in the nuclear industry, which has the highest unionization rate in the energy sector of 84%. Beyond the power plants, Canadian Nuclear boasts a hyper localized 96% Made in Canada's supply chain employing 76,000 people. This generates an unprecedented economic multiplier effect. There's $1.40 return and local economic activity for every dollar invested in Canada nuclear. If we were going to imitate the inflation Reduction Act and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a clean energy transition, we have a choice to make. Do we spend that money right here at home in Canada on nuclear the ultimate economic multiplayer, or generate an epic trade deficit by sending money to foreign supply chain and emerging geopolitical adversary? The inflation Reduction Act recognizes the vital role for nuclear energy. It provides a 30% investment tax credit for new nuclear projects and up to 50%. If the nuclear plant is built on an existing industrial site uses union labor and a domestic supply chain. Canada is following suit albeit with a much more modest investment tax credit of 15%. Beyond finance, what is the greatest barrier to Canada unleashing its nuclear potential. Ironically, Canada's burdensome environmental impact assessment process poses one of the greatest threats to our environment by delaying the construction of green energy infrastructure like new nuclear plants, which are vital to our climb. At response, this government has committed to net zero electricity by 2035. And yet the environmental impact assessment process is expected to take around seven years or until 2030. To complete. This is clearly not in line with the urgency of the task at hand. To be very brief, our recommendations are therefore to streamline the environmental impact assessment process for nuclear on brownfield and existing nuclear sites and match the American investment tax credit for nuclear recognizing its unique economic multiplier effect. Thank you very much.