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| 03/25/16

Alberta’s oil sands workers bid to create clean energy jobs


A coalition of Alberta oil sands workers is reaching out to government and corporate representatives to help unemployed colleagues transition to the alternative energy sector.

The new group, which calls itself Iron and Earth, hopes to provide the conditions for thousands of pipe fitters, ironworkers, scaffolders, boilermakers and other labourers who depend on the Canadian oil and gas sector to move to more reliable work in Canada’s developing green energy sector, following the global downturn in oil prices.

On Monday, organizers formally launched an initiative asking the Alberta government to invest in their “Solar Skills” project. Their goal is to get the government to commit to retraining 1,000 oil and gas specialists for work in the solar sector.

“We’re a group of oil sands workers who see incredible opportunity to transition our skills to the renewable energy industry,” founder Lliam Hildebrand told reporters at the launch of the pressure group.

In addition to the demand for retraining, Hildebrand is looking for the province and corporate sponsors to commit to putting 100 solar installations on public buildings, starting in the fall.

“We have the skills to build the renewable energy infrastructure required for Canada to meet their climate target,” he said. “That will open up a huge amount of opportunity for us if we can start diversifying our energy grid and it would ensure that we are less vulnerable to price fluctuations.”

The Canadian oil sands shed more than 100,000 jobs as a result of policy uncertainties and the drop in crude oil prices last year,according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Organizers behind Iron and Earth believe their program will provide job security to a vulnerable workforce, while helping Alberta achieve its goal of 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

Alberta’s environment minister, Shannon Phillips has tasked her officials to meet with the group to discuss options.

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Climate news and analysis that's relevant for you, every week.