British Columbia

Trump can't stop the clean energy movement, expert says

Clean Energy Canada's Merran Smith says she's not worried about U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to boost the coal industry because the market is already shifting away from fossil fuels to clean energy.

New report says major world polluters are investing more in clean energy than in fossil fuels

Merran Smith says Canada is a leader in clean energy and could provide much sought after expertise on the world stage. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

A new report from a B.C.-based energy think tank says clean energy is here to stay — no matter what U.S. President Donald Trump does.

On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era climate change regulations in a move he said will prioritize jobs in the oil and coal industry.

Merran Smith, the executive director of Clean Energy Canada at Simon Fraser University, says ultimately — it won't make a difference.

"Donald Trump is not going to be able to fight back some of the basic facts about renewable energy," she said.

Smith said renewable, clean energy sources like solar and wind are increasingly cost-competitive.

Secondly, she said, the clean energy sector is a major employer.

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study, the number of jobs in the U.S. wind power industry rose by 32 per cent last year while solar power jobs rose by 25 per cent.

Coal miners wave signs as Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally last year. Trump says his executive order to roll back climate change regulations will help bring back jobs to the coal industry. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

"Some of the biggest employers of solar and wind technicians are in Republican states — places like Oklahoma, Iowa, Texas. These are jobs for rural people. They're electricians, they're welders, pipe fitters. These are Trump supporters that are being employed," Smith said.

"It's going to be challenging [to] bring coal jobs back."

Many environmental groups — like the Pembina Institue and the Sierra Club — have said the same thing, saying Trump is missing opportunities in the clean energy sector.

Fossil fuel producers, however, say the overturned regulations will give their industry a competitive advantage.

World at a tipping point

Smith's report says the clean energy movement has reached a tipping point.

It says some of the world's biggest polluters — China, India and the United States — are investing more heavily in clean energy technology rather than in fossil fuels.

Smith believes it's a good opportunity for Canada to get involved.

"There are big opportunities for Canada because we actually have a clean electrical grid [here]. Over 85 per cent of our electricity is non-emitting, non carbon polluting emitting, so we have a lot of expertise here," she said.

The industry, according to Smith, is practically unstoppable.

"With this growing energy demand, even Donald Trump can't kill this demand and the transition that's happening."

Listen to the full with Merran Smith on CBC's The Early Edition here: