Behind the Numbers: Our Oil Sands and Clean Energy Job Comparison

Merran Smith on Business News Network,
Merran Smith on Business News Network, December 2, 2014

Our Tracking the Energy Revolution 2014 — Canada report is attracting a fair bit of attention this week, and one of the comparisons we used has caused quite a stir. As we note in the report, in 2012 there were 23,700 direct clean-energy sector jobs and 22,340 direct oilsands jobs—an interesting comparison given how much we hear about jobs in the oilsands. It certainly caught us by surprise, and we felt it was a useful comparison to make to contextualize the significant growth of the clean energy sector.

But given the attention, we thought it would be helpful to share a little more context to inform the discussion.

First, the oilsands and clean energy job numbers in our report only address “direct employment” — i.e. neither figure includes construction jobs, nor do they include the “induced” jobs in other parts of the economy (like baristas and realtors and staff at the Mac store).

Second, where did we get the numbers?

We sourced our clean-energy sector jobs number from the Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report, produced each year by Analytica Advisors, an Ottawa-based research and consulting firm. (The full report is available on a subscription basis only.) The report addresses the cleantech sector broadly, but we extracted the following “clean energy” direct employment jobs for 2012:

Biorefinery products – 1,600

Power generation – 5,100

Smart grid and infrastructure – 3,200

Energy efficiency and building envelope – 8,100

Clean transportation – 5,700

It’s noteworthy that these are private sector jobs only—they do not include crown corporation jobs (think B.C. Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, Hydro Quebec to name a few), despite the fact that these companies are major clean energy producers and employers.

We sourced the oilsands direct jobs figure from The Decade Ahead: Labour Market Outlook to 2022 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry, a 2013 Petroleum Human Resources Council report that was funded in part by the Government of Canada and The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. That report estimates oilsands jobs in 2012 (using 2006 National Occupations Classification job titles) and includes everything from engineers, to crane operators, to geologists, to heavy-equipment mechanics. You can see this data on page 46 of the document at the link above.

To summarize: the comparison is contextual. We don’t suggest one job is any more or less important—or appropriate—than the other, or that one is competing with the other. As we are seeing in Canada, both sectors can experience growth simultaneously.


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