More than 2000 clean energy jobs have disappeared over the past two years as the sector grapples with uncertainty sparked by a political impasse over the renewable energy target.

New data shows employment in renewables has slipped 15 per cent since 2011-12 when it reached a peak of almost 15,000 full-time workers.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics says 12,590 employees worked at wind farms, solar panel manufacturers and hydropower plants last year.

The government and opposition are at loggerheads over the RET, which mandates 20 per cent of all Australia’s energy come from clean sources by 2020.

The legislated target of 41,000 gigawatt hours is predicted to exceed 20 per cent and the government wants it slashed to 32,000GWh.

Until last week Labor had refused to budge from an unspecified target in the mid-to-high 30,000GWh range, with the two parties contributing to an impasse that has stalled investment and cost jobs.

The opposition is now backing the clean energy sector’s target of 33,500GWh.

The Australian Conservation Foundation blames the Abbott government for the job losses because it is trying to “water down” the RET.

“The government is cutting clean energy jobs with the uncertainty it has created,” chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.  The ABS data shows half the sector’s jobs were in rooftop solar, which both parties agree should not be undermined in any new target.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the sector, though, because renewable energy jobs have grown by 44 per cent since 2009-10.

The number of people employed in renewable energy related activities in government entities and non-profit institutions more than doubled over the five years.


By Elise Scott