The government messing with solar energy (and other renewables) ABS shows

Jobs in the renewable energy sector have been slashed. The data is now in to confirm the scale of losses and that government policy is to blame.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics report State of Renewable Energy released this week 2300 jobs have been lost for the year to 2013-14, a drop of 15 per cent.

There were 12,590 direct full time equivalent jobs in renewable energy activities in 2013-14, down from a peak of 14,890 in 2011-12. Overall, however, the data shows the sector’s job share has grown 44 per cent since the start of the decade, up from 8750 employed in 2009-10.

The influence of government policy differs from state to state, with factors such as feed in tariff arrangements and pricing having a direct influence on the level of employment in the sector, the ABS said. The data showed the employment in solar grows when feed in tariffs are high, and slows when state government policies drive the price down to around 6-7 cents a kilowatt hour.

The Renewable Energy Target policy uncertainty is also having an influence, as are local government policies such as City of Hobart and City of Brisbane schemes that subsidise domestic rooftop installations.

State by state jobs breakdown

New South Wales had the highest level of annual direct full time equivalent employment in the sector with 2950 jobs in 2013-14 – 22 per cent of the national total.

Victoria had 2810 FTE jobs, Queensland 2520, South Australia 1330, Tasmania 1450, Western Australia 820 and the ACT 630.

Overall, between 2009-10 and 2013-14 all states and territories except South Australia recorded increases in direct employment in the sector, with the ACT showing the strongest growth in percentage terms with an increase of 425 per cent compared to the 120 jobs in 2009-10. Victoria’s employment rose the most in terms of numbers, up to 2810 in 2013-14 from 1490 in 2009-10.

The fall in employment since 2011-12 has hit hardest in Queensland, where there has been a 34 per cent reduction in job numbers from 3820 to 2520. Western Australia has also seen a dramatic slide, with 53 per cent of jobs lost – down to 820 from 1740.

In the ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania, however, the ABS said jobs have continued to grow, with Tasmania’s annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities increasing from 1160 in 2011-12 to 1450 in 2013-14.

Job share between different renewable technologies

Solar energy continues to create the largest share of overall jobs, with employment in rooftop solar photovoltaics including solar hot water systems accounting for 49 per cent of renewable energy sector employment in 2013-14.

The ABS said hydropower employment has maintained a state of gradual increase in jobs throughout the reporting period, with 1810 persons currently employed in the sector.

“Employment in wind power is primarily driven by installation activity, rather than by ongoing operation and maintenance. As a result, this employment is heavily dependent on continuing formation of wind power infrastructure and is relatively volatile,” the ABS stated.

Total annual direct wind power employment has fluctuated from 1110 in 2011-12 to 2690 in 2013-14.

  • The full ABS report can be read here