Opinion: Alberta’s cities can lead way by helping create renewable energy jobs

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How many jobs can we create now in Alberta in this decade? A $500-million solar electricity installation will be built in 2021-22 near Vulcan. Those half-billion dollars will create 500 construction jobs, and many more in the service industries. How much more benefit can be achieved?

In early 2020, Teck Resources withdrew a controversial proposal for a $20-billion oilsands mine because of the challenging debate over Canada’s undefined role in addressing climate change. Perhaps, instead, Teck and others should lead a consortium to invest $20 billion in renewables in southern Alberta by 2030. That investment would be profitable, creating clean green long-term electricity, tens of thousands of construction jobs, and many related service industry jobs. Further, we all gain from reductions in regional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the province. Alberta would gain immense global and regional goodwill for offsetting a substantial portion of our huge global GHG footprint. Those investments would also position our region to benefit fromrapidly growing global carbon markets.

This can all be achieved profitably if cities commit to PPAs — commit to buy the electricity. EASY! No big capital investment. Just commit to buy green electricity. We can dramatically reduce GHGs, air pollution and invest in rebuilding our economy and society. Step up, Mayors Naheed Nenshi (Calgary), Chris Spearman (Lethbridge), Ted Clugston (Medicine Hat), Tara Veer (Red Deer), Don Iveson (Edmonton). Step up Enmax, Epcor, TransAlta and all energy generators. Step up political leaders in counties, towns, villages. Step up educational institution leaders, school boards, health units, civic businesses and corporations. Rebuild our economy and provide much needed meaningful long-term employment for Albertans.

James Byrne is a professor of geography and environment (climate science and solutions); Paul Hazendonk is an associate professor of chemistry; Locke Spencer is Tier II Canada Research Chair in experimental astrophysics; John Vokey is a professor of psychology, all from the University of Lethbridge. Joe Vipond is an emergency physician, co-chair of the Calgary Climate Hub, and interim president for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

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