Tuesday, May 28, 2019

an avoidably big bad picture

There's a think tank associated with Simon Fraser University (SFA) called Clean Energy Canada. The people there released a report last week called, "Missing the Bigger Picture." The content of the actual report, based on a quick look-over, is fine. The promotion/spin of the report has not been fine - it's been deliberately deceptive, and it seems to me that's because of Merram Smith.

The report is currently downloadable from a page currently headlined, Missing the Bigger Picture: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2019. There is also a technical report available there, which is where I found my expectations confirmed.
Not only is Canada’s clean energy sector growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy (4.8% versus 3.6% annually between 2010 and 2017), it’s also attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment every year. And perhaps most importantly for the average Canadian, it’s a huge, and growing, employer.
...[The clean energy sector is] made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution - whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies.
The jobs in the clean energy sector are in many industries and in every province. They include the Canadians who manufacture solar panels and wind turbines ...
And there, in Merran Smith's introduction to the report, is spin.

The technical report confirms what readers of this blog already know: additions of solar and wind capacity slowed years ago (wind peaked in 2014 and solar in 2015).
Figure from the technical report.

"Wind" is in the report 19 times - more often than "hydro". Here's an example:
Renewable and alternative energy supply—think hydropower and wind farms—is one of the biggest earners in the clean energy sector...
"Nuclear" is in the report once:
Nuclear and hydro power were by far the biggest employers, making up 80% of jobs in this industry.

Returning to the technical report, here's a graphic showing the energy supply ("think hydropower and wind farms"):
I didn't look into how the report defines GDP, but I'll note the output from solar generation costs Ontarians over $1.6 billion a year, and wind a little more than that (we know this from reporting on the global adjustment components - which is not the entire cost, but most of it).

Here's the names of some big "clean" projects: Site C, Keeyask, Muskrat Falls, Romaine and Darlington.

Picture those.

Here's the second rather dishonest spin - taken from the generic Canadian Press piece on the report (with industrial wind turbines pictured):
All told, the study concluded, nearly 300,000 Canadians were directly employed in clean energy in 2017, nearly 100,000 more than Statistics Canada data said worked in mining, quarrying, and oil-and-gas extraction.
The comparison is unnecessary, and wrong. The 300,000 jobs tallied up in "clean energy" are shown broken into categories:

  • Clean Buildings (6.6%),
  • Grid infrastructure and energy storage (15.8%),
  • Clean energy supply (20.1%), and
  • Clean transport (57.5%).

Many of these jobs involve fossil fuels too: the installers, and mainteners, of my natural gas furnace are clean energy workers (because it's efficient), as are the people who work to keep the fossil-fueled grids of Saskatchewan and Alberta delivering electricity,and the engineers guiding diesel-powered locomotives pulling tanks of oil. Also clean are the manufacturers of hydrid vehicles - although few are plug-in hybrids, and, of course, bus drivers.

I'd like to claim I have no idea why such a vapid comparison was made, but I can't. It's a report by the good people showing their team outnumbers the bad people.

I don't believe that - in a couple of ways.

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