Why Biden’s renewables race could set Australia back

US President Joe Biden wearing aviator sunglasses and driving an EV
US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden’s massive spending on renewables has sparked an international clean energy arms race that has the potential to damage the Australian economy, according to the Clean Energy Council.

The United States recently introduced the Inflation Reduction Act, a mammoth package of policies and incentives targeting US$369 billion of clean energy and climate change initiatives.

Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said that while President Biden’s spending was positive for decarbonisation, Australia now faced losing thousands of jobs and significant international investment to its North American ally.

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“Australia has a prime opportunity to become a clean energy superpower, but the brightest minds and the biggest wallets are now looking to the US for their best opportunity,” Thornton said.

“It is immediately clear the US package dwarfs the level of support Australian governments provide for the clean energy transition. 

“The consequences of inaction have the potential to damage Australian competitiveness across all industries for decades to come.

“Taking the next step in Australia’s clean energy transformation requires even stronger action and support for the industry.”

Thornton said Australia requires a coherent masterplan to become a global energy superpower and called on the Federal Government to formally articulate its strategy.

Meanwhile, the scale of Biden’s incentives for renewable energy investment and green hydrogen has significantly altered the global landscape, acting as a powerful magnet for finance, workers, and technology manufacturing.

The Federal Government has requested a detailed analysis from Dr Alan Finkel on the implications of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Thornton is urging the Australian Federal Government to take appropriate action in its May Budget. 

“Vast economic packages that prioritise the build-out of renewable energy and storage are exactly what’s needed to decarbonise the planet. 

Australia is at risk of being left behind without a significant commitment in the May Budget,” he said. 

“This has the potential to harm all export industries. A world-leading supply of clean, affordable energy is a competitive advantage for any industry that competes in the global market.”

Ryan Carroll, regional director of Airswift, a provider of workforce solutions to STEM industries, said Australia was not the first choice for renewable energy talent.

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“The brightest talent and biggest brains will always gravitate to the best opportunities. In renewable energy, Australia has the potential to lead the world, but the race to realise and capitalise on the opportunities is on and the US Government has made its intent clear,” Carroll said. 

“The Global Energy Talent Index highlights that Australia’s position as a destination for renewable energy talent lags behind Europe and North America. 

“The government should learn from Joe Biden and use the May Budget to promote investment and entrepreneurship. This will signal to the top energy minds that Australia is the place for career progression and innovative projects.”

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