Even as employment positions are being lost in industries such as manufacturing, Australia has a significant area of opportunity with regard to job creation in renewable energy over the next decade and a half, a new report suggests.
In its Renewable Energy Jobs: Future Growth in Australia report, the Climate Council compares two different scenarios about the long term future of the renewable energy sector in Australia and models the likely employment impacts of each scenario.
Under the first scenario, a ‘business as usual’ rate of growth in renewable energy capacity is assumed, and the share of electricity which is generated from renewable sources increases from around 15 per cent now to around 34 per cent by 2030.
Under the second scenario, by contrasts, the nation adopts a more aggressive approach and the share of renewables as at 2030 instead rises to 50 per cent.
Whereas net gains of around 14,000 jobs will occur under the first scenario, that number rises to 28,000 under the more aggressive latter scenario – around 15,000 of which will come from construction and 13,000 of which will be in operations.
Whilst some jobs would be lost as coal fired power stations shut down, this would be more than offset by the higher levels of employment within the renewable sector.
As part of the global climate change agreement in Paris, Australia committed to a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in the volume of greenhouse gasses it emits by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.
In order to achieve this, the government is pursuing a three-pillared approach: an emissions reduction fund through which the government essentially pays companies to undertake emissions reducing activities, a safeguard mechanism which aims to ensure that reductions purchased by the government are not offset by increases in activity elsewhere, and the renewable energy target.
In terms of the overall employment share (as opposed to new employment) within the energy sector over the 14 years to 2030 under the 50 per cent scenario, the Climate Council says around 42 per cent of these will relate to construction activities whilst 58 per cent will relate to operations.
In terms of construction, the majority (70 per cent) of employment will be concentrated in rooftop PV installation, whilst opportunities will also be realised through building of wind turbines and facilities along with the building of non-rooftop solar PV, the report said.
In operations, black and brown coal are still expected to account for 53 per cent overall whilst wind, rooftop PV, hydro and solar PV will account for 19, 11, nine and four per cent respectively.
In terms of states, whilst the largest net growth in jobs overall would occur in New South Wales, the largest growth on a per capita basis occurs in South Australia.
Climate Councillor and energy expert Andrew Stock says Australia would gain many more jobs than it loses with a 50 per cent pathway by 2030 as opposed to the less ambitious business as usual scenario.
“Research has shown that we need to source at least half of our electricity from renewables by 2030 to be on track to completely decarbonise power generation by 2050, which is essential to tackle climate change,” he said. “This report shows that 50 per cent renewable energy would also create many more jobs than our business as usual trajectory, and that every state will benefit.”