Iron & Earth

Summer 2021 Supporter Update

Thank you for helping us fulfill our mission!

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It’s a uniquely exciting time at Iron & Earth for a range of reasons — there have been some significant leadership changes and our initiatives are progressing very well despite many of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This document outlines our progress in recent months and our plans for the remainder of the year.

The team at Iron & Earth and our project partners are tremendously grateful for our volunteers, funders, and supporters. Thank you for helping us to fulfill our mission. We hope you enjoy this Summer 2021 update and are inspired by what’s to come from Iron & Earth over the coming months and years ahead! 

INTRODUCING OUR NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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After working for the past five years to get Iron & Earth to where it is today, our founding Executive Director, Lliam Hildebrand, has decided to hand off his position to new leadership. This transition is an exciting time for Lliam and his hope, along with the other team members at Iron & Earth, was to find somebody who could confidently take our initiatives to the next level and scale our impact. Iron & Earth is pleased to announce that we have found this person and have appointed Luisa Da Silva as our new Executive Director!

Luisa brings over 20 years of diverse experience in the energy, mining, education, and not-for-profit sectors.  She began her career in the fossil fuel industry of northern Alberta and has been influenced by her mining experiences in Canada and abroad. After a successful career as a professional geoscientist, Luisa moved to the United Kingdom to pursue an Executive Masters of Business Administration. While in the UK, Luisa managed digital transformations at a leading private school. After returning to her hometown in Ontario, she worked in the not-for-profit sector with one of Canada’s top environmental charities. 

Read Luisa’s recent blog post to read more about the journey that has brought her to this position!

RENEWABLE SKILLS - PHASE 2

Development of three training programs complete

Throughout the past 18 months, Iron & Earth worked with the Louis Bull Tribe and a diverse team of subject matter experts to develop three rapid upskilling programs for fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers. These are our:

  1. 10-Day Solar Skills for Electricians
  2. 10-Day Community Solar Skills
  3. 10-Day Community Wind Skills 

These programs follow our unique ‘5-and-5’ model: five days of in-class, followed by five days of hands-on training, including installing a small solar or wind energy system. Graduates also receive career support for six months through Iron & Earth's Climate Career Mentorship Program. 

Upcoming program delivery

We will be delivering our 10-Day Community Solar Skills and 10-Day Community Wind Skills this summer in partnership with Maskwacis Cultural College (MCC). We are eager to offer these programs for the first time and are enthusiastic about this partnership with MCC. 

Iron & Earth will scale these training programs, and others to be developed soon, to train thousands of workers into the one million+ climate jobs forecasted as Canada pursues its net-zero targets. 

Train the Trainer Program (TtT) complete

In April and May, we recruited and trained eight highly qualified and passionate instructors through our Train the Trainer program. The majority of our new instructors have over a decade of relevant trades experience and multiple years in fossil fuel and renewable energy industries. Building this instructor network was an essential step towards scaling the delivery of our programs.

Ability to deliver training remotely

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, we recognized the need to prepare ourselves for the potential need to deliver our programs remotely. While we can’t deliver the hands-on components of our programs online, we saw the value in preparing our course-based work to be delivered online if necessary. This work is now complete, and our course-based materials are now fully remote-ready. 

RENUWELL

Declining production from conventional oil and gas fields has left 199,000+ inactive wells and more than 160,000 hectares of disturbed land in Alberta. As a result of this, municipalities across Alberta are owed more than $240 million in unpaid property taxes from oil and gas producers. Iron & Earth has helped develop an innovative model to turn these obstacles into an opportunity by creating a framework that transitions oil and gas liabilities into assets. RenuWell aims to accelerate both the clean-up of these sites while also utilizing the existing roads, powerlines, and disturbed lands to reduce the costs for renewable energy projects. 

The first two pilot projects are slated for completion in late 2021/ early 2022. Both pilots will utilize Orphan well locations in the MD of Taber as brownfield sites for solar development and they will be built in collaboration with the MD of Taber. Funding is provided by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (a partnership of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta), Alberta Innovates, and the Irrigation Canal Power Co-operative Ltd (IRRICAN). Check out a new video that explains the project model!

We are spearheading the development and delivery of the training programs and are also leading a communications campaign during the project construction phase. 

We have partnered with Medicine Hat College to develop a 10-day RenuWell Workforce Training Program for fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to learn the basics of solar before transforming the well sites themselves. The development of this training program is now complete and ready for delivery during our pilot projects. RenuWell project partners have worked for the past year to identify sites for further solar installations. We’re working together on a suite of about 10 or 20 sites tagged for commercialization if the pilot succeeds.

CLIMATE CAREER PORTAL

A central pillar at Iron & Earth is to help fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to develop careers in climate solutions. To accomplish this at scale, we have begun to create the Climate Career Portal: a digital platform that will help our members to understand and diversify into emerging careers in the net-zero economy. The Climate Career Portal will accomplish this goal by clearly showing which occupations from oil and gas are needed in emerging climate solutions and explaining why these occupational skills are transferable. The portal will also provide job growth forecasts for these climate solutions. Additional features will include a comprehensive database of available training programs and financial supports.

Each of the features has been designed in response to questions we regularly receive from our constituency. This platform will allow us to provide guidance, at scale, to these workers who are looking for answers about the coming net-zero economy. 

Progress on this project:

  1. Launched a design feedback survey to our constituency, and received over 100 survey responses within a couple of weeks, then implemented this feedback directly into the design process
  2. Our Co-Directors, Sally Lin and Rohan Nuttall, have completed the initial design for the first iteration of the platform.
    1. We recently secured funding for Sally and Rohan, who were previously volunteers, to continue working on this project as student interns between May 1st - August 22, 2021
  3. Hired front-end and back-end developers who are completing the development of our first version of the platform to be launched this summer/fall
  4. Identified stakeholders that are building similar portals and hosted multiple meetings with these stakeholders to establish mutually beneficial partnerships 
  5. Contracted the Delphi Group to gather workforce supply and demand data that we are integrating directly into the platform

IRON & EARTH INDUSTRIES

As we work to fulfill our mission, we aim to establish Iron & Earth Industries, a social enterprise that will allow Iron & Earth to scale the delivery of training programs and career support services in remote and Indigenous communities. 

As a first step towards this goal, we hired Alberta Community Cooperative Association (ACCA), Delphi Group, and McMillan-Evans Consulting to lead initial business planning development. The Iron & Earth team has worked closely with these consultants throughout the business planning process. 

Our aims throughout the project have been to understand our market, the products and services we will offer, and a growth framework for achieving the scale we believe is required to support workers during the energy transition.

Through in-depth data collection, interviews with industry leaders and business planning activities, we have affirmed some preliminary assumptions about the need for our services and identified new opportunities for our social enterprise.

PROSPEROUS TRANSITION CAMPAIGN

Through the Prosperous Transition Campaign, we are advancing a blueprint for a prosperous transition to a net-zero economy, powered by the vision and voices of fossil fuel industry workers. This campaign is amplifying positive new narratives of hope by listening to the constituencies that need to be heard the most during the energy transition ahead. By doing so, we are helping to catalyze a significant increase in the public support required to accelerate the implementation of deep-reaching climate change solutions.

During the initial months of this campaign, we have:

  1. Developed and launched our policy priorities, including our four-point plan
  2. Generated media coverage of our four-point plan in recent interviews and media coverage with Global News, Alberta Today, CBC and the Globe & Mail
  3. Met with multiple federal ministries, including the Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, to explain our four-point plan for a Prosperous Transition
  4. Engaged with various organizations to gather preliminary feedback on our policy recommendations, including: Unifor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Pembina Institute, the Delphi Group and international organizations such as Agulhas  
  5. Partnered with the Energy Futures Lab to get feedback from various energy industry stakeholders through a “Big Ideas'' webinar hosted in 2020 and a 360 policy review event in January 2021
  6. We have begun conducting over one hundred 1:1 interviews with worker-members across Canada to learn more about their priorities during the coming energy transition

We are encouraged by the enthusiasm we have received over the past months for the ideas we are putting forward and have seen elements of our policy recommendations in recent federal announcements, including the recent federal budget and the renewed federal commitments to implement a Just Transition Act.

We are now entering an exciting new phase of this campaign. In partnership with Abacus Data, we recently conducted a poll that has gathered 300+ responses from fossil fuel industry workers regarding their vision for what is required for a prosperous transition to net-zero by 2050. We will be releasing the results from this poll in July! We will then be integrating these poll results and our 1:1 worker interviews directly into a full-length policy report, The Prosperous Transition Plan, that we will launch in August.

365 GREENHOUSE

Through the leadership of our east coast chapter, Iron & Earth helped develop, design, and construct a one-of-a-kind renewable energy-assisted greenhouse in partnership with the Autism Society of Newfoundland & Labrador (ASNL) St. John’s. We recently completed the installation of the solar energy system used, in combination with an electric heat pump, to generate the heat and light required to grow food year-round. Under net metering, this greenhouse will provide revenue generation, flowers, and produce for the Autism Society's social enterprise initiatives, Good Roots gardening and the Pantry Cafe. 

Daily operation of the greenhouse will be managed by ASNL, giving them the opportunity to employ 2-3 additional people with autism spectrum disorder. We hope to celebrate the completion of this project with a ribbon-cutting event soon!

THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS, FUNDERS, AND SUPPORTERS

These initiatives have each been made possible through the support of our many generous volunteers, supporters, and funders. We are so grateful for everybody who has believed in us and supported our growth, including our funders and project partners below.

 

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