EXCLUSIVE: A rapid shift to renewable energy wouldn’t just clean up electricity generation, it would create an employment boom with as many as 60,000 new jobs.
And the total would at least match the numbers employed in coal-fired electricity generation, new research released today has found.
From 7300 to 12,500 jobs a year would be needed for operation and maintenance of electricity generation without fossil fuels, according to research by The Australia Institute.
And when manufacturing of equipment is included, the employment pool could be boosted by 18,000 to 59,000 jobs, the research found.
The 2016 census found just over 8000 people worked in fossil fuel electricity generation.
“In the decade to 2030, there are far more jobs in building new renewable generation than there currently are in operating our ageing fossil fuel generators,” the institute’s research director Rod Campbell said.
“In the longer term, the operation of utility scale renewables is likely to have similar levels of employment to fossil fuel generators.”
The research has, for the first time, attempted to quantify renewable power advocates’ boast that moving from fossil fuels would revitalise employment prospects, particularly in regional areas.
And the findings could be used to reassure voters fearful that a growth in renewable power generation and a diminished demand for coal would take jobs from their areas.
The research is based on the Australian Energy Market Operator’s “Fast Scenario” of reaching 53 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Labor, which is expected to release a detailed energy policy tomorrow, has proposed a 50 per cent target in that time.
Solar power was expected to be the big employer.
The Australia Institute report says ongoing rooftop solar expansion and the installation phase of utility scale solar and wind projects deliver the majority of those positions, but more than 10,000 ongoing jobs could be created, predominantly in regional Australia, in the maintenance and operation of renewable energy facilities under the policy.
“A serious renewable energy target could drive a jobs boom in Australia, particularly in regional areas,” Mr Campbell said.
“As employment in the ageing coal power sector declines, new renewable energy projects are already coming online and creating jobs in construction, installation and assembly.
“With strong targets, stable energy policy and support for manufacturing, Australia can clean up its energy sector and generate substantial employment opportunities.
“A large proportion of the jobs being created in renewable energy are outside of the major city centres, which has the potential to give regional Australia a much-needed boost.”
The researchers acknowledge renewables are unlikely to be mass employment sources.
“While the sector is capital intensive and so unlikely to ever employ as many people as major service industries such as education and health care, it can make a significant contribution,
particularly in regional areas,” the institute said.
“As more renewable energy is developed, researchers, decision makers and the public will hopefully gain a better understanding of these benefits.”