A number of laid-off oil patch workers have found new employment opportunities in the energy efficiency sector, an often unsung part of Alberta’s energy economy.
According to Energy Efficiency Alberta, a provincial agency, the province’s energy efficiency businesses are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the province’s GDP each year.
Between April 2017 and March of this year, efficiency and rooftop solar programs alone contributed $850 million to provincial GDP, and the industry created over 4,300 private-sector jobs.
Obi Sadden is a former oil and gas sector firefighter who now owns Energy Plus Insulation, a Medicine Hat-based company helping homeowners cut down on their energy costs.
“There are a lot of older houses in Medicine Hat that were built long before today’s standards,” Sadden says. “As a result, they are drafty and uncomfortable in the winter, unless the furnace is running constantly, which of course racks up the energy bills,” he added.
Sadden says he finds it “deeply satisfying” to know that he is helping his customers by making them feel more comfortable and cutting their utility bills. “I can see it on their faces, and it just makes my day.”
And Obi Sadden is not unique. According to one career-transition expert, a number of laid-off or automated-out oil and gas workers have found new careers in Alberta’s energy efficiency sector.
“A lot of field people in oil and gas already do work back and forth between oil and gas, and sectors like construction and installation,” says Cheryl Knight, a consultant specializing in the use of labour market, energy industry and business expertise to provide innovative and practical workforce strategies to address business and growth requirements.
This year Calgary based ECO-Canada released a report with findings indicating 77 per cent of the 50,711 energy efficiency sector employers were in construction and installation. Energy efficiency employment in construction and installation is projected to grow by 8.3 per cent over 2019 and 45 per cent of the employers found it difficult to hire qualified workers in order to keep up with demand.
Not just during off-season or “spring break-up,” work in energy efficiency-related construction and installation is increasingly an extension of the oil and gas industry, and involves similar work.
“The energy-producing and energy efficiency — or energy conservation — sectors are overlapping in a bigger way than they have ever before,” says Knight.
Knight added that the energy industry is evolving to be less traditional. “People in oil and gas are starting to look at this broader energy spectrum for employment.”
In its recent Annual Report, Energy Efficiency Alberta confirmed that every dollar the province invested in its programs since 2017 has returned $3.20 in value. And while the agency’s future remains up in the air, those numbers speaks for themselves, said Corey Diamond, Executive Director of Efficiency Canada.
“Albertans have long considered fiscal responsibility a proud shared value,” said Diamond. “And we know that, thanks to energy efficiency programs, homeowners, businesses, churches, municipalities, school districts — all have more money in their pockets today than they did two years ago.”