Group wants Alberta to support program to retrain oilsands workers for solar

Have developed plan for 1,000 people

EDMONTON (CP) — A group of oilsands workers wants the Alberta government to support a program to retrain unemployed electricians as solar panel installers.

Lliam Hildebrand of Iron & Earth, a non-profit organization, said they have developed a plan to retrain 1,000 people.

But to make it work they need the province to buy into the scheme with money and a pledge to retrofit some government buildings with solar panels as part of the training plan, he said.

``We realize they will not be able to contribute a significant amount of funding towards this program in the immediate term so we are asking that they support an initial set of demonstration projects,'' Hildebrand said Monday.

Iron and Earth estimates it would cost about $8 million to install solar panels in 100 buildings. He said 10 buildings would be a good start.

The group is also seeking funding from industry.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the NDP government will consider the proposal but needs more information.

``I will have to wait and see and learn a bit more,'' Phillips said.

'``We are going to meet with them and we are going to make sure that we explore every opportunity to help workers and families hardest hit by the drop in oil prices.''

Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the oilpatch due to the low price of crude.

Hildebrand said eventually the group would like to develop programs to put more oilsands veterans to work in other renewable energy projects such as wind, geothermal and biofuels.

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