Bigger isn’t always betterSmaller energy projects offer big economic benefits

Blog - Dec. 1, 2014 - By Penelope Comette

Economic development discussions in B.C. too often centre on large-scale proposals like LNG terminals, oilsands pipelines or hydroelectric dams like Site C. While they don’t generate the same headlines, it’s small- to medium-sized companies that are actually driving the provincial economy, employing 94 per cent of B.C.’s private sector employees

B.C.’s clean energy economy is part of this pattern — the companies building renewable energy projects and selling technologies such as energy efficiency software or wind turbines may be small individually, but collectively they are a significant contributor to the economy. Three solid research projects, including one from last month, make this case by looking at different segments of B.C.’s clean energy economy.

  • In a new report, KPMG found that a portfolio of wind, run-of-river and biomass power projects in B.C. would create approximately $4.3 billion in GDP and 45,200 full-time equivalent person-years of employment in construction alone. Following construction, these projects – located throughout the province – would generate $90 million in GDP annually and 695 full-time equivalent person-years of employment for up to 60 years or more.
  • KPMG also prepared a Cleantech Report Card that found 200 clean technology companies operating in the province in 2011, employing over 8,000 people and generating $2.5 billion in annual revenue, primarily from exports.
  • A GLOBE report looking at a more complete picture of the clean economy (including clean energy generation, energy management and efficiency, green buildings and more) found over 74,500 jobs and $11.1 billion in GDP in 2011 — two and a half times the number of jobs found in the oil and gas and mining sectors in B.C.

This research should serve as a useful reminder that mega projects aren’t the only way to grow the economy. In fact, thinking small may be the more productive way to get to the economic outcomes we want. 

Penelope Comette

Penelope was a program director with the Pembina Institute and led the Pembina Institute’s Ombuds Office until 2018.


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