08/29/2011 11:28 EDT | Updated 10/29/2011 05:12 EDT

Green Jobs Are Under Attack

Even though embracing renewable energy will save ratepayers money, the Conservative Party of Ontario has vowed to cancel the province's program. Instead, Ontario should look more closely at Europe, where renewable energy is embraced by right- and left-wing alike because it is a win-win proposition.


Readers of the Globe and Mail no doubt noticed Margaret Wente's column of last week which argued that most green job schemes are failures. To be sure, she has cobbled together a list of facts and examples that support her position. However, these facts are not representative of the bigger picture. Rather, they are the exceptions to the rule and, contrary to Ms. Wente's assertion, green jobs have been created the world over.

For example, according to a recent study from the Renewable Energy Policy Network, over 3.5 million people are now employed in renewable energy worldwide. China's renewable energy industries employ over half a million people, and Germany, the country our feed-in tariff is modeled after, now boasts over 370,000 renewable energy jobs.

And green energy isn't the only success story. The non-partisan Brookings Institution recently reported that the U.S. clean economy, which encompasses more than just renewable energy, employs some 2.7 million people, and it far outperformed the rest of the economy during the recession. Indeed, the report's author described the pace of growth as "torrid."

Ontario's program has also successfully created green jobs. Thanks to the Feed-in Tariff, and its domestic content requirements that stipulate that a percentage of any wind or solar project must be sourced from Ontario, 40 or so firms have announced their intention to set up manufacturing facilities in the province. Many are already in production. Plus, there are thousands of people busily installing solar panels and erecting wind turbine across the province, and many more in related businesses such as sales, engineering, and permitting.

In the face of this evidence, it seems odd that green jobs continue to come under attack. But we're nearing an election and, unfortunately, it appears that green energy and the associated green jobs have become a wedge issue.

Despite reports which show that green energy is not the reason hydro bills have increased, and others that demonstrate that embracing renewable energy will save ratepayers money over the medium to long term, despite reports from firms such as Ernst and Young and Deutsche Bank which find that Feed-in Tariffs deliver renewable energy at lower costs than other schemes, the Conservative Party of Ontario has vowed to cancel the province's program.

In Europe, renewable energy and the green economy are not partisan issues. Instead, they are embraced by right- and left-wing alike, even during these times of financial restraint. Why? Because renewable energy is a win-win proposition -- good for our environment and our economy.

Ontario should look more closely at Europe, and continue to follow the lead of the world's manufacturing economies, such as Germany and China, who understand that this environmental imperative is also an economic opportunity. And we should be wary of those who would have us embrace the status quo- or worse, go backward.