Aussie jobs would increase under Labor RET: E&Y

HITTING the ALP’s target of 50% of Australian energy being produced from renewables would double the number of new jobs created, according to modelling conducted by Ernst & Young and the Climate Council, and new estimates published by The Australia Institute.

Haydn Black

The left-leaning TAI said Australia had lost 5100 jobs in the renewable energy since 2012, and voting for the Coalition policies would see a continued decline, while policies from the Labor and Greens would deliver renewable jobs and growth.

It said the Coalition’s attack on wind and solar following the 2013 election, and its decision to scale back the RET, saw renewable energy jobs decline in Australia over the past three years, from a peak of 19,120 jobs in 2012 to a 27% drop to 14,020 in 2015.

The group said renewable energy policy had become a central theme of the 2016 Australian federal election, driven by the RET, which the Coalition wants to hit 23% by 2020.

The ALP wants to hit 50% by 2030, while Greens and 90% by 2030.

The report suggested that the Coalition policies would see jobs increase to around 16,000 by 2020, but that would decline to 10,000 jobs by 2030, while the ALP policy would support 20,000 jobs by 2030, and the Greens’ policies would lead to an estimated 36,000 jobs.

“The importance of policy support for renewables cannot be understated,” TAI said.

“The absence of policy support for the last three years has seen Australia move in the opposite direction to the rest of the world. The Frankfurt School of Business reported two months ago that 2015 was the first year when new renewable energy installations - excluding large scale hydro - accounted for the majority of generation capacity built. That is 53.6% of generation built, for a total of US$285.9 billion invested.

“If Australia’s major political parties want to generate economic growth, then renewable energy is a perfect policy. It will lead to jobs and wider economic benefits and at the same time has significant local environmental outcomes as well as making a major cut in our climate footprint.”

Based on current 2020 renewable energy targets, the Climate Council report estimated that following “business as usual” would likely cause a 44% increase in employment compared with 2014 levels in renewable energy construction, maintenance and related industries such as steel manufacturing.

But if the RET was increased to 50% by 2030, there would likely be a 90% increase, or a total of 28,000 new jobs, far more than TAI’s estimates.

The report notes that these jobs would come at the expense of some in the fossil fuel electricity sector, but that the last census showed there were only about 8080 jobs in that industry in total.

Most of the jobs are expected to be found in New South Wales and Queensland.

The report found that most states will see half of all new jobs created in rooftop solar photovoltaics, while utility scale renewable power in regional and remote Australia may well offer opportunities to increase employment in those regions

Australia’s electricity market is dominated by ageing fossil fuel-based electricity generators, with only 14.6% of electricity coming from renewable energy, but research suggests that Australia needs to source a minimum of 50% of its power from renewable sources by 2030 to achieve emissions reductions consistent with a 2C pathway.

“Decarboninising Australia’s electricity sector is critical to reducing emissions in both that sector, and also enables other areas such as transport to dramatically reduce emissions,” the Climate Council said.