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Building a 21st Century Union requires staying on top of the latest goings on in Canada and around the world. News items, photos and more to keep you 'in the know'.

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Ikea to sell residential solar panels in Britain

November 17, 2013 – Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA will start selling residential solar panels at its stores in Britain, the first step in its plan to bring renewable energy to the mainstream market worldwide. Read more

View video:

EC News - November 2013 from CUSW on Vimeo.

5 Reasons Solar Is Already Beating Fossil Fuels

November 6, 2013 – It's frustrating to still hear dissenters say that renewable energy is not ready to compete with fossil fuels as a means to power our country.

The solar industry is growing dramatically every year, while fossil fuels continue to be phased out. Solar is no longer the cottage industry it was decades ago. Stunning advancements in production and financing have brought solar to the playing field with coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. And here are five reasons why solar is already winning.

1. Jobs

There are more people in the U.S. employed to create solar energy than to mine coal. The banal argument that transitioning to a clean energy economy will cost us jobs is false. Solar is growing over 10 times faster than the American economy.... read more


Province on track to eliminate coal-fired generation

Cleaner air in Ontario

October 24, 2013 (from the Ontario Ministry of Energy) – Ontario is one step closer to being the first jurisdiction in North America to eliminate coal as a source of electricity.

Today, the province marked the end of burning coal at the Lambton Generating Station. This leaves Nanticoke Generating Station as the last operating coal-fired facility in Southern Ontario, which is slated to stop burning coal at the end of 2013.

Ontario has committed to end coal generation by the end of 2014. Closing these plants one year ahead of schedule will save ratepayers $95 million from reduced maintenance and project costs. A coal-free energy mix will also lead to a significant reduction in harmful emissions, cleaner air and a healthier environment.

Eliminating coal-fired generation and protecting the environment while providing clean, reliable and affordable power is part of the government's plan to invest in people, build strong infrastructure and support a dynamic and innovative business climate across Ontario. Read more...


5 ways the Canada-EU trade deal will impact Canadians

October 21, 2013 - Canada and the European Union have reached a "political agreement" on free trade that the federal government says could boost Canada's annual income by as much as $12 billion annually, and bilateral trade by 20 per cent.

While the deal is not expected to be ratified for at least two years, it is expected to remove 98 per cent of EU tariffs on a wide range of Canadian products.

1. Cheaper goods
When CETA comes into force, Canadians will pay less for items including food, wines and spirits, and even high-end European cars — if retailers and European manufacturers pass on the savings from the elimination of tariffs.... Read more...

Why B.C., Alberta are ending their pipeline standoff

New thaw seen in getting Alberta's oil sands bitumen to West Coast

October 21, 2013 - This week saw a remarkable shift in the pipeline standoff between B.C. and Alberta over the contentious problem of getting Alberta's oil to B.C. ports, for shipment to Asia.

Until recently, government officials on both sides of the Rockies had described this particular interprovincial relationship as "frosty." With neither side even willing to seriously discuss it.
But now, with B.C.'s spring election fading in the rear-view mirror, it appears the Liberal government's hard line over transporting Alberta's oil is starting to defrost — rapidly.

Rhetoric is being replaced by actual negotiations and if the talks continue as they appear to be going, the end result will almost certainly be bitumen from Alberta's oil sands making its way to West Coast ports, assuming of course that other regulatory hurdles can be surmounted.

Much to the chagrin of environmental groups and other pipeline critics, the question no longer appears to be if Alberta's bitumen will make its way through B.C. but rather when it will happen and how it will be transported. Read more...


Is lightning the future of clean energy?

Nokia and scientists from the University of Southampton recently announced that they had used simulated lightning to partially charge a Nokia smartphone.

“Wireless charging, in and of itself, is pretty darn cool. But imagine if you could charge your phone using lightning!” began a post by Nokia blogger Phil B describing the experiment involving a Nokia Lumia 925 and calling the results “nothing short of brilliant.”

A news release from the university called the research by high voltage physicist Neil Palmer “ground-breaking” and “an industry first that could potentially see consumers tap one of nature’s significant energy sources to charge their devices in a sustainable manner.”

But how close did the achievement really bring us to harnessing lightning as a clean energy source? And if we could do it, how sustainable would it be?

A typical lightning bolt can carry several billion joules of energy, and the power of lightning has captured the imagination of those looking for new clean energy sources in recent decades. 
read more


Ontario confirms it’s scuttling plans for new nuclear plants

October 11, 2013 – The Ontario government confirmed Thursday it is abandoning plans to build two new nuclear plants and will focus on refurbishing its aging facilities instead.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said new nuclear stations will not be part of Ontario’s formal review of its long-term energy plan, which will be finalized before the end of the year.
Over the past few months, we have had extensive consultations for the review,” Mr. Chiarelli said. “There is a strong consensus that now is not the right time to build new nuclear, and refurbishment is where we should be going.”

Mr. Chiarelli said nuclear energy, which made up 56 per cent of the province’s energy output last year, would remain an important part of Ontario energy. Earlier reports said the proposed new reactors would have cost more than $10-billion. read more


Report bodes well for combined heat and power

October 11, 2013 – Combined heat and power and carbon capture and storage technologies will help push the generation of the global thermal power market to 19,869.1 TWh by 2020, according to new data.

A report from research and consulting firm GlobalData states that the past few years have seen “heavier investment into research and development to improve fossil fuel technologies that can generate power at a higher capacity factor, whilst displaying a minimal impact on the environment”.

It adds that the fact that energy efficiency and security now form the foundations of many countries’ power policies is also a major contributing factor behind these investments.

“CCS (pictured above) has been deemed one of the most efficient technologies developed for reducing carbon dioxide emissions while maintaining the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation,” says the report.  read more

Cheap, spray-on solar cells developed by Canadian researchers

Nanoparticle-based cells can be made with far less energy than conventional silicon solar cells

October 5, 2013 – Silicon-free solar cells, light and flexible enough to roll up or use as window blinds, are under development at a University of Alberta lab.

The solar cells are made using nanoparticles — microscopic particles just 30 to 40 atoms across — that are very cheap to produce from zinc and phosphorus, said Jillian Buriak, a University of Alberta chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute of Nanotechnology.

“We turn these things into inks or paints that you can spray coat onto plastics,” Buriak told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald in an interview that airs Saturday. 
 read more

Province offering $50,000 for best new apps

Ontario is inviting software developers to build new apps that will help Ontarians conserve electricity and save money.
In partnership with MaRS Discovery District, the Energy Apps for Ontario Challenge is offering $50,000 to support the best new apps that use electricity data collected by smart meters. These apps will help Ontario households and businesses manage and better understand their electricity use, so they can make informed decisions and save money.
Quick Facts
    •    Submissions for the Energy Apps for Ontario Challenge will be accepted from Oct. 1, 2013 to Jan. 7, 2014.
    •    In January 2014, Ontarians will be able to vote for their favourite submission to win the People’s Choice Award. All awards will be announced in early 2014.... read more

Jellyfish Invasion Shuts Down Nuclear Reactor

Of all the potential mishaps that can cause a nuclear plant shutdown, from an earthquake to operator error, the one that you might least expect is a swarm of jellyfish gumming up the works.
But apparently, that’s exactly what happened in Oskarshamn, Sweden, on Sunday, when plant operators had to shut down Sweden’s biggest nuclear reactor after a huge swarm of moon jellyfish swam into the cooling water inlet and blocked it. The individual creatures range between 2 and 15 inches in diameter.
The number 3 unit at the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant, a 1,400 megawatt unit that supplies about 5 percent of Sweden’s electricity needs, is now in the process of being restarted and will be back at full power this week.
While a jellyfish-induced outage might seem like a freak event, the creatures have caused problems numerous times at nuclear plants before. Oskarshamn’s number 1 unit had to be shut down in August 2005 because of a similar outbreak of the aquatic creatures... read more

Ikea to sell residential solar panels in Britain

Free energy after 7 years

Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA will start selling residential solar panels at its stores in Britain, the first step in its plan to bring renewable energy to the mainstream market worldwide.
A standard, all-black 3.36 kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost 5,700 British pounds ($9,497) and will include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service.
"In the past few years the prices on solar panels have dropped, so it's a really good price now," IKEA's chief sustainability officer Steve Howard said. "It's the right time to go for the consumers."
The solar panel investment will be paid off in about seven years for an average home owner in Britain, Howard said.
"That is a great deal. If you are going to be in your house that long, your energy will be free after seven years," he more

The App That Will Make Sustainable Energy Cool

When you ask kids about their favorite things, sustainable energy probably doesn't top the list.

But a new movement and mobile platform called mPowering Action might change that. The app is designed to inspire and motivate a generation of global citizens to take positive action in the world. The team and partners behind it hosted a panel Sunday at the 2013 Social Good Summit called "Sustainable Energy and Global Youth: Making a Complex Issue Fun...”
During the session a number of companies and organizations announced their commitment to raising awareness for sustainable energy through the platform. Grammy-winning musician and philanthropist also joined the conversation, saying that in order to change the world by 2030, we need to think about solutions for kids. Read more

Check out this column and infographic from Jacob Morgan in Forbes magazine:

Work is evolving, which means that we are seeing new technologies and behaviors enter our organizations.  And now organizations are struggling to adapt.

The infographic at right visually shows how work is evolving and what areas are being impacted.  Share it with your friends and colleagues who are seeking to understand how the world of work is changing. Download infographic

The White House Goes Solar

Solar panels were installed on the White House last week, part of President Obama's commitment to use more renewable energy. It wasn't announced who the manufacturer was, but the solar panels were made in the U.S., making this the latest addition to a growing residential solar industry.

Permanent residency part of new skilled labour program

The federal employment minister has announced a new skilled labour program that will grant applicants permanent residency in Canada more quickly.

Blackout 10 years on: How 'smart grids' help blackout-proof the power game

Ten years ago today, the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada went black in a colossal power outage that affected 50 million people. In the decade since, utilities have explored scores of creative ways to transform the way we consume electricity.

Workers deserve better than this warehouse

We may think of as a forward-thinking company, but when it comes to treatment of employees in Rugeley, England, it isn't.

Back in the day, a mine employed the good people of Rugeley. But it closed down in 1990. 

Amazon came in, built a "fulfillment warehouse" where books are stored, sorted and packaged to be mailed off to customers… and it hired people from the town.

It sounds like a story with a happy ending, but conditions in the warehouse say otherwise: workers do repetitive, monotonous and unchallenging work and they can be fired for talking to one another. A photographer documenting the enormous barren warehouse, called it "shockingy quiet" and the workers "human robots".

In addition, these jobs have no future. Most jobs there are temporary, and can disappear overnight if Amazon says so. Not great for the employees, and not the great boost to the local economy that Rugeley residents had no doubt hoped for. Jobs in the mine were no picnic, but at least they were solid.

Miners have fought, and died, to establish unions and to defend their rights as working people – including better pay, benefits and safer workplaces – through Collective Agreements. But workers' rights are also about humane workplaces, where employees can feel they are making a meaningful contribution, rather than being treated like mindless, emotionless automatons.

Amazon's version of the workplace, at least in Rugeley, is not forward thinking at all – it's 1984.

Toronto Zoo poop to help generate electricity, heat

3,000 tonnes of manure to be processed at new energy plant on zoo grounds

An energy plant project set for construction in 2014 will turn manure into electricity for Ontario's power grid, after a 50-day "digestion" process.
"It works basically like a big concrete stomach," said Daniel Bida, executive director of the ZooShare project....
read story

Skills gap has major economic impact: report

Skills gaps and mismatches are costing the Ontario economy billions of dollars each year, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.
“It’s not really ... a lack of’s not pointing to people toward the places where they can fully utilize their education...” said Sarah Watts-Rynard, of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.... 
read story