With news Ontario is negotiating with South Korea’s Samsung Group for wind turbines and solar panels in a deal Energy Minister George Smitherman says could bring billions of dollars of investment and hundreds of green jobs to the province, we have some questions.
They also apply to the 50,000 “new” green jobs Smitherman and Premier Dalton McGuinty claim Ontario’s Green Energy Act will create over the next three years.
First, does this mean 50,000 more jobs before or after jobs losses in the traditional energy sector are subtracted?
Second, how many of these jobs will be permanent?
Third, what will be the taxpayer subsidy per job created?
Fourth, how long will these subsidies last?
Fifth, what impact will this have on electricity rates?
These days, politicians routinely predict huge job gains by “going green” in a process that appears to consist of little more than pulling numbers out of a hat.
Of course, governments can create as many green jobs as they want by subsidizing renewable energy at rates high enough to attract private investors. Typically, this means subsidies at least twice as high as what they now pay for power.
But these “new” jobs won’t contribute to economic prosperity if the result is skyrocketing electricity rates, massive, ongoing public subsidies and job losses in the traditional energy sector. All that, in fact, will hurt our economy.
Spain is a global leader in renewable energy, but a recent study by economics professor Gabriel Calzada Alvarez of Madrid’s Juan Carlos University found it lost at least 2.2 jobs elsewhere in the economy for every green job created and only one in 10 green jobs was permanent.
The estimated cost to taxpayers for every green job created was 571,138 euros, over $900,000 Canadian. The estimated cost for every wind industry job created was over one million euros — over $1.5 million Canadian.
The Spanish government, unsurprisingly, has called Alvarez’s study “simplistic” and argued its own data suggests a rosier picture.
But it doesn’t change the question — what does McGuinty mean by claiming 50,000 new green jobs in three years?
Or is the claim, in fact, meaningless?