12/02/2014 12:18 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

Clean energy provides more jobs than oilsands, report says

Renewable energy has experienced big growth in Canada in the last five years, so much so that employment in the sector outstrips employment in the oilsands.

That’s the conclusion of a report on the state of green energy technology in Canada by Clean Energy Canada, an advocate for renewables.

It estimates $24 billion has been invested in the past five years, mainly because of renewable initiatives in the power sector by Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

Employment in the clean energy sector – which encompasses hydro power, as well as wind, solar and biomass – is up 37 per cent to 23,700 people. That compares with 22,340 employed in the oilsands.

Wind, solar, run-of-river, and biomass energy has grown by 93 per cent since 2009, albeit off a very low base.

In 2013, Canada ranked 7th in the G20 in clean energy investment, up from 12th in 2012. Total investment was $6.5 billion for the year, with substantial amounts of money going to wind and solar.

That figure is dwarfed by investment in the oil patch, Clean Energy Canada says.

Provinces make the investment

The bulk of the good news is a result of Ontario and Quebec’s investments in wind and solar power and B.C.’s investment in new hydro power.

The report also advocates a move to renewable power generation in Alberta, which has reliable sunshine and wind alternatives, and Saskatchewan, which is still using coal.

Canada could meet all its energy needs with renewables by 2050, if it put the right policies in place, Clean Energy Canada says.

Meanwhile, the federal government is not doing enough to help Canada meet its 2020 targets for lower greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

Recommendations for Ottawa

Clean Energy Canada said Ottawa is missing out on multiple opportunities to invest in renewables.

Among them:

- Give favourable tax treatment for development of power storage and solar technologies.

- Help build clean energy infrastructure.

- Concentrate less on oil exports and more on renewable exports in trade talks.

- Provide a rebate for electric vehicles.

- Carbon pricing that could discourage use of high-carbon alternatives.

Clean Energy Canada points to several areas where Canada has a headstart on other nations in developing renewable technology, including B.C.’s smart meter expertise and Ontario and Quebec’s cleantech sector. It advocates more development in those sectors, so Canada can live up to its potential in green energy.