Job numbers will skyrocket in the renewable energy industry, no matter who is in power, Ben Pike reveals
THE climate is right for further jobs growth in the renewable energy sector as both sides of politics get behind green power.
Jobs in renewable energy have a brighter future compared to those in brown coal, commercial electricity operation and other power generation polluters because of a $24.24 a tonne carbon tax.
There are 24,000 people now employed in renewable energy and that number is expected to grow by a further 33,000 by 2030, Climate Institute projections show.
Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh says because both sides of parliament are committed, at this stage, to a 5 per cent reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020, employment in renewable energy will continue to grow.
‘‘ The Coalition is saying they want to do a review of the Clean Energy Target next year but they are still very supportive of the industry and we expect to see the industry grow under a Coalition government,’’ he says.
‘‘ The Coalition have a specific program called the One Million Roofs Solar Program. They do support the deployment of renewables generally.’’
Solar energy is by far the biggest employer in the clean sector, with more than 16,000 jobs spread across rural, regional and city areas.
Most of those jobs are in small-scale installations on the roofs of homeowners. There are 5000 accredited solar installers nationwide.
‘‘ There has been record years for the amount of PV (solar) that has been deployed – which is mostly on rooftops around Australia,’’ Marsh says.
‘‘ Growth in installations has driven growth in employment. Very little is due to the carbon price.
‘‘ It’s pretty much all driven federal and state support for renewable energy. At the federal level you’ve got the renewable energy target and then numerous state-based schemes to support solar.’’
The carbon tax has been in force for just more than a year and is a policy aimed at 300 of the country’s biggest polluting companies but there appears to have been little direct impact on overall employment numbers. The Federal Government is hoping the carbon tax will drive innovation in clean energy as big polluters look for ways to avoid paying more for their emissions. Employment in electricity (brown coal), gas distribution, commercial electricity and brown coal is predicted to shrink by an average of 22 per cent by 2015 as a result of a $23 a tonne carbon tax, University of New England figures show.
Jobs in renewable energy are predicted to grow 67 per cent, however, along with an average of 23 per cent growth in electricity that is created through either oil or gas.
The Government is also investing $32 million in the Clean Energy and Other Skills program.
The program is aimed at improving training for people in ‘‘ electrocomms’’ (electrical communications) as well as facility managers, engineers and financial managers.
It aims to address a significant lack of training options for those looking to get into the clean energy sector.
The number of people seeking training in renewable energy technology will require an increase in student places of about 300 per cent more than current levels, EcoGeneration figures show.
Many clean energy companies, such as wind farm operators, take general engineering graduates and train them with specialised skills.
Marsh says there is a host of opportunities for people to work in the industry, in and out of the office.
‘‘ We’re going to need more of these renewable energy technologies going forward and we need engineering professionals who can design and build small and large-scale renewable energy projects,’’ he says. ‘‘ With household solar we need electrical tradespeople who are able to install them. There is that demand from households.
‘‘ On the other side, we need accountants, lawyers, HR professionals and administrative people. They are needed in the process of developing renewable energy projects.’’
Marsh adds that during the construction phase of building a wind farm, for example, there are basic construction and engineering people required.
Wind farm technology also is expected to be the most sustainable in terms of Australian jobs, regardless of which party is in power federally.
Capital Solar director Mark Hollis employs installation and service technicians such as sub-contractor Michael Pimm (pictured on cover).
Hollis says business has been good for them but other operators have had trouble adjusting to a market that is constantly evolving. ‘‘ The (government) incentives to begin with were quite generous and certainly helped increase the demand and awareness of solar in the community,’’ he says.
‘‘ Unfortunately the incentives have been a bit of a roller coaster ride and we are certainly hoping that they can provide a fair system to the community.’’
He says there is plenty of work for individuals who are passionate about renewables.