(File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Is oil and gas reliant Red Deer ready for a change?

Rene Michalak says a transition towards alternative energy is possible

Red Deer has among the most fossil fuel-reliant economies in the country, according to the results of a recent study.

With 4,300 city residents working in the oil and gas sector, Red Deer follows Wood Buffalo (with 14,200 workers) and Grande Prairie (4,500 workers) in the top-three Canadian communities with the most oil and gas industry workers, reveals a study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The same report shows that 7.5 per cent of Red Deer’s workforce is connected to the fossil fuel industry. On a per capital basis, this means this city ranks 10th of Canadian centres with economic ties to the oil and gas sector. Sylvan Lake, with 14.2 per cent of its population working in oil and gas, is fifth (after Wood Buffalo, Cold Lake, Lloydminster, and Estevan, Sask).

With so much local reliance on an industry that’s been struggling, Red Deer resident Rene Michalak believes it’s important to gradually diversify our local economy.


ReThink Red Deer hosts zero-waste seminar

Edible, pollinator garden

Fossil fuels “are our existing way of life. You can’t just dump and jump to something else,” said Michalak, a project leader with ReThink Red Deer. But while he feels “there needs to be respect given to where we got our wealth,” Michalak believes “a transition can be navigated.”

He’s the new Red Deer branch manager for Newo Global Energy, a non-profit that’s giving Red Deer’s unemployed or under-employed oil and gas workers opportunities to transition to working in the alternative energy field.

The Camrose-based non-profit, with links to indigenous communities, offers retraining courses for oilfield workers interested in transitioning into the solar design and installation field.

Michalak admitted job opportunities in solar energy now lie in Calgary or Edmonton. But he believes Central Alberta’s solar energy industry is growing and will keep expanding, through entrepreneurship, as the cost of solar energy panels continue to drop.

Newo is a supporter of the Pace program. If approved by the Alberta government, it will allow loans for the cost of energy efficient improvements to homes to be rolled into annual property taxes for a period of up to 25 years. That means once a house is sold, repayment becomes the new home owner’s responsibility, said Michalak, who believes this will stimulate more people to consider environmentally friendly home energy options.

More information is available from www.newo.energy/ or from rethinkreddeer.ca.

The next ReThink Red Deer event is the March 24 EcoLiving Fair at the Red Deer College forum. Michalak said a couple dozen vendors will present a variety of innovations, including electric bicycles. Check out the website for workshop topics.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

WATCH: Spring on the farm comes to Red Deer

Sunnybrook Farm Museum kicks off a summer of education and fun

Woman hurt, driver arrested in two vehicle crash in Red Deer

Police say one vehicle involved was stolen

North and South Korean leaders hold surprise 2nd summit

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer shows respect at annual celebration

Central Alberta Sexual Assault Suport Centre holds Respect Day at city hall park

Red Deer man sentenced to 4 1/2 years for fatal shooting

Mother-of-two was killed when a rifle in a sports bag accidentally went off in February 2017

WATCH: Throwing punches and kicks at the Western Canadian Karate Championships

More than 300 athletes competes at the event in Red Deer Saturday

Red Deer condo owner frustrated by property crime told to take down cameras

For the fourth time this month, Christopher Neitz woke up to his… Continue reading

Woman hurt, driver arrested in two vehicle crash in Red Deer

Police say one vehicle involved was stolen

WestJet, pilot’s union agree to settlement process with mediator

CALGARY — The threat of a strike by WestJet pilots appears to… Continue reading

Teacher out of hospital after stopping school shooting

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — An Indiana science teacher was released from a hospital… Continue reading

Imperfect answers: A son killed in action and his parents ask why

BERTHOUD, Colo. - Ten days since Gabe was killed. Bob and Donna… Continue reading

From uncertain import to borderline superstar

They were just teenagers, and playing hockey on an international stage was… Continue reading

Snoop Dogg lauds Canada’s growing cannabis industry at Montreal tech conference

MONTREAL — Canada is more advanced than the United States regarding its… Continue reading

More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

WASHINGTON — A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month