A power grid at breaking point, Manitoba's once-in-a-century investment, and the real winner of the energy transition


Energy’s new reality

The energy transition hit another new milestone last week. For the first time, global clean energy jobs now outnumber jobs in fossil fuels, according to a new analysis from the International Energy Agency. The study found that 40 million people, making up 56% of the total energy workforce, now work in clean energy related jobs.

Since the pandemic, clean energy has made up “virtually all of the growth in energy employment,” largely thanks to new manufacturing hubs in China, “notably solar, electric vehicles and batteries.”

There are signs of a global shift at the local level too. Like the workers in West Virginia coal country who are seeing more and more job opportunities in clean energy. Or the former oil and gas employee in Newfoundland who is now teaching solar skills programs in remote communities (on that note, check out Iron And Earth’s new Climate Career Portal that links oil and gas employees as well as Indigenous communities with the renewable energy sector). 

As we’ve said before: clean energy isn’t just a hope for the future—it’s already our new reality.

Indigenous power

Here in Canada, Indigenous communities are leading the switch to renewables, with the number of mid- to large-sized Indigenous renewable energy projects growing by nearly 30% between 2017 and 2020. A new Globe and Mail story explores how Indigenous communities across the country are turning to clean energy to generate revenue, create jobs, and cut costs and emissions.

Plugs over profits

Roughly three-quarters of Canadians want auto manufacturers to go electric, even if it means lower profits for those companies, according to a new poll from Environmental Defence and Abacus Data. In the words of Environmental Defence’s Nate Wallace, “Canadians agree—automakers have a responsibility to clean up their act, even if it means they take a hit to their bottom lines.” Another recent report from the organization found that the auto industry spends roughly 28 times more on advertising for vehicles with combustion engines compared to electric vehicles. 

Feeling the heat

California’s power grid was almost pushed to a breaking point last week after an unprecedented heatwave set electricity-hungry AC units humming across the state. While the grid operators narrowly avoided blackouts, it’s the latest in a stream of examples of how extreme weather can impact infrastructure. And while some flagged concerns about the effects of California’s EV ambitions on an already-strained grid, this Axios story breaks down the realities, pointing out that EV batteries could actually help rather than hinder.


Ironically, in the weeks before California was scrambling to keep on the lights, power prices plunged into negative territory as some U.S. grids found themselves with too much electricity. As this Bloomberg piece points out, balancing out power issues is going to require a lot more transmission capacity so that renewable energy is not stranded by grid “bottlenecks.” In fact, Bloomberg’s analysis suggests that world spending on cables is “going to have to rival solar and wind power” as more renewables are added to the grid.

Ahead by a century

The city of Selkirk in Manitoba is “one step closer” to hosting a $400 million solar glass manufacturing plant that, if approved, would be the largest industrial investment in the community in over 100 years. As the city’s chief administrative officer said, “This puts Selkirk on the map in terms of the green economy.”

The sun also rises

Selkirk’s new plant would offer a link in a solar supply chain that is “already winning the energy transition.” As Bloomberg’s David Fickling put it, if you look at the planned manufacturing capacity for some aspects of the solar supply chain, like solar polysilicon (used to make photovoltaic panels), solar is set to dominate your energy futures: “The solar boom of the past two decades has left the world with a cumulative 971GW of panels. The polysilicon sector is now betting on hitting something like that level of installations every year. There are certainly signs of an ongoing solar sunrise in the U.S., with a new report predicting solar installations will triple by 2027 thanks to incentives in the new climate bill.

The flipsides of sunshine

To continue this week’s sunny streak is the news that the EU set a new record for solar power this summer, reducing the need for natural gas imports. That same sunshine also brought record heat, however, with the continent “smashing” previous temperature records. According to the European Commission, “temperatures from June to August were 0.4 C higher on the continent this year than the previous record set in 2021.”

The Clean Energy Review is co-authored by Trevor Melanson and Keri McNamara
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