Corbett: New centre for energy education should focus on renewables, not coal, oil and gas.

If the Department of Education is setting up a ‘Centre of Excellence for Energy,’ students and teachers would be best served learning about renewable energy and technology to help the switch to a low-carbon economy, rather than the energy of yesteryear like oil, gas and coal.

That was our Executive Director Lois Corbett’s message to the Moncton Times & Transcript this week when asked about a new centre being established by the province to “collect the expertise of the energy sector and related fields to share with teachers and students.”

Corbett told the Times that, before their phone call to her, she hadn’t heard of the new centre—and neither had other environmental organizations she spoke to in the province.

“Not one person that I know of that’s working on climate change and energy education issues has been consulted on the content, so I’m a bit worried,” Corbett said in the article, published online on Nov. 1, 2020.

Corbett said there’s nothing wrong with students learning about where their electricity comes from, but she wants to ensure students learn about “the jobs of the future.”

“If it’s just about how energy systems work and how gasoline runs your car, that’s like training up to be a VCR repairman,” she said.

The Department of Education has established other ‘Centres of Excellence,’ with the model typically involving funding or in-kind services from the sector it’s related to. 

A spokesperson for the department told the Times the energy centre has been in works since early 2020. The Department wouldn’t name who spearheaded the centre or what businesses or groups are partnering to make it happen, saying it is still confirming partners.

Given the centres funding models, Corbett said she’s worried about corporate interests in coal, oil and gas gaining an undue influence over what children are taught. She said funding from energy-sector players should not be allowed. 

“Just because money is waved at a public system that is inadequately funded doesn’t mean we should jump on it, and especially on energy – that is so critical because of the impact of climate change,” she said. “We don’t need anymore chinks in the armour of public education.”

The Conservation Council will be watching for an announcement from the Department about how exactly the centre will be funded and exactly which companies are involved. Stay tuned to this space for more as it develops.

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