Clean energy provides enormous jobs opportunity, study says

Wind turbines and solar panels (microsoft brookfield)
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The largest study of current and projected employment in the renewable energy industry in Australia, the Clean Energy at Work report, has found that the sector currently employs over 25,000 people and could employ as many as 44,000 people by 2025 with the majority of those jobs in regional Australia.

Released by the Clean Energy Council, following research by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, the study covers large-scale and small-scale solar and battery storage, wind, hydro and pumped hydro and the associated supply chains.

Clean Energy At Work shows the enormous job creation opportunity from renewable energy in Australia,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said.

“It’s clear that these renewable energy jobs can have an enormous positive impact on regional communities and should be a clear priority for government as part of the COVID-19 economic response.”

Significantly, the release of Clean Energy At Work highlights the role of renewables in creating a prosperous rural and regional Australia, with around 70 per cent of renewable energy jobs in rural and regional areas to 2035.

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“It has been recognised for some time now that Australia has developed a two-speed economy that has been detrimental to those living in regional and rural areas,” Mr Thornton said.

“It’s vital that there is a focus on creating job opportunities outside our metropolitan centres and clean energy can deliver, allowing all Australians to benefit.”

The renewable energy sector has been through recent and rapid growth with the last three years setting several new records, including the highest penetration of rooftop solar, the most added capacity for wind and large-scale solar power, and largest financial investment in the sector. It is, therefore, a crucial time to take stock of industry and workforce needs and undertake critical skills forecasting to understand whether training systems can address potential skills shortages.

While construction and installation jobs currently dominate the renewable energy labour market comprising 80 per cent of current jobs, Clean Energy At Work reveals that by 2035 as the industry grows in scale as many as half the jobs could be in operation and maintenance, especially in the wind sector, which means they are essentially permanent roles.

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“These have the potential to be ongoing, highly skilled and stable – avoiding the boom and bust of construction cycles,” Mr Thornton said.

“The Clean Energy Council has a strong focus on raising standards for workers and communities and maintaining integrity within the industry while accelerating the uptake of clean energy. The next step is about minimising skills shortages and creating secure, ongoing and sustainable jobs in the industry. We haven’t always got this right. However, this is something we’re now working with our members and stakeholders to address.”

According to the Clean Energy Council, the role of government is essential in establishing a robust and secure renewable energy workforce. Without addressing the barriers and ensuring a strong policy landscape in support of the renewables industry, 11,000 jobs could be lost over the next decade.

“This is the scenario we want to avoid,” Mr Thornton said. “It’s vital that the investment pipeline can give the renewables business the confidence to invest in the development of solid workforce and training practices.”

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