Oil and gas workers train for solar alongside First Nation members to launch national initiative - Stand with oil sands workers calling for renewable energy

Oil and gas workers train for solar alongside First Nation members to launch national initiative

Workers call on government to support upskilling across the country

October 20, 2017

Louis Bull Tribe of the Maskwacis Nation, Alberta — Oil and gas workers and members of the Louis Bull Tribe installed rooftop solar panels on a community daycare today, as part of an initiative to give workers new opportunities in clean energy.

15 trainees installed the panels during a five-day upskilling course, the first in the “Solar Skills” program launched by Iron & Earth. The goal of Solar Skills is to upskill 1,000 oil, gas and coal workers — as well as indigenous community members — as solar specialists through hands-on installations.

A second training course will be held in Newfoundland and Labrador in two weeks, but Iron & Earth is calling on governments to step up and develop a national upskilling initiative. This kind of initiative will upgrade the skills of a wide range of tradespeople for a host of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.

“The skills we have as energy workers are versatile and transferable, but support is needed to enable workers to diversify,” said Jen Turner, Director of Communications at Iron & Earth and a wellsite contractor. “Hundreds of workers have already signed the Solar Skills pledge, calling on the government to invest in worker upskilling. We hope they listen, and that more Canadians will realize what’s possible with training programs like this.”

Struggling oil, gas and coal workers have the ability to build a new energy economy in Canada. The province of Alberta plans to get 30 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030, which will create many new opportunities in solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and biofuel energy projects. Similar opportunities will be created in other provinces as Canada implements its plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 and reach near net-zero emissions by 2050.

This week’s training program was developed as part of the collaboration platform of the Energy Futures Lab and is a partnership with Iron & Earth, Gridworks Energy Group, and the Louis Bull Tribe. It was sponsored by Enbridge and Suncor Energy. Iron & Earth is actively seeking multi-stakeholder collaborations as it scales this initiative up across the country.

“At Enbridge, we know that all forms of energy will be needed to meet people’s needs as we shift to a low-carbon economy and we’re doing our part to be involved in that transition. That is why we are investing in developing this workforce today,” said Kim Brenneis, Director of Community and Indigenous Engagement with Enbridge.

The Louis Bull Tribe started installing rooftop solar last year, and has 406 solar panels installed with the completion of today’s project. That solar infrastructure will save the community over $10,000 in energy bills per year, with another round of solar projects coming to the community soon.

“Our community first became interested in solar to reduce costs, but we now see its potential is so much greater,” said Desmond Bull, Councillor of the Louis Bull Tribe. “Renewable energy projects are a tool First Nations can use to create economic opportunities, but also to restore the harmonious relationship that our ancestors had.”

Key Facts

  • When Iron & Earth surveyed oil and gas workers, 63 percent said they could shift to renewable projects “directly with some training”. 16 per cent said they could shift without any retraining.
  • Siemens Canada estimates that new policies will generate up to $50 billion in renewable energy investments over the next 13 years - in Alberta and Saskatchewan alone.
  • Moving to zero-emissions electricity in Canada would create more than one million construction jobs by 2050, according to a Columbia Institute study commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions.

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Photos and Video

Photos of the training program are available online here
Two minutes of b-roll footage of the trainees is available for download here


Jen Turner
Director of Communications at Iron & Earth

About Iron & Earth 

The group came together during the spring of 2015 when oil prices started to fall, and is pushing for investments in green energy and re-training in renewables. Our membership continues to grow and includes workers from a variety of industrial trades, including boilermakers, electricians, pipefitters, iron workers and labourers. We want to see workers and families thrive. We want the green energy revolution to bring us closer to financial security and our climate targets — all at the same time.

The Energy Futures Lab is an Alberta-based, multi-interest collaboration designed to accelerate the development of a "fit for the future" energy system. Learn more at energyfutureslab.com.

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Showing 5 reactions

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  • Sam McGear
    commented 2018-12-31 12:00:59 -0800
    Great call! Any updated reports on this? I’m doing research on exactly this topic and learned a lot. Thank you!
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    commented 2018-01-26 05:39:46 -0800
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  • Patric Shannon
    commented 2017-10-29 08:53:23 -0700
    Given the recent hurricane issues in Texas and the roof rebuild necessary there, combined with the oil/gas workers in this part of the location, I think it would make a lot of sense to try to implement this initiative there. As the owner of a company that is very related to construction http://www.epoxyflooringlasvegas.com and one that has constantly experienced the benefits of having cross-trained employees, I have to say this is a great program and more programs like this will help make people more employable while saving the environment. Times are changing and we need to change with it or we will be left behind. I salute you for being first movers in a program we could really use in the States.