Renewable energy could create 26,000 jobs, most in regional Australia, says The Climate Institute

By Lynne Blundell

The Climate Institute report released on 25 May shows that renewable energy projects under construction or planned in response to the proposed emissions trading scheme could create a boom in jobs.

The research shows that nationally $31 billion worth of clean renewable energy investments are underway or are planned, which will create over 26,000 jobs, the vast majority in regional Australia.

“The good news is that taking action on climate change will create tens of thousands of jobs, many of them in regional Australia, as we shift gears to a less polluting and more efficient economy,” Climate Institute CEO, John Connor.

“This research shows that if climate change and renewable energy legislation passes through Federal Parliament without being weakened it will help drive the industrial shift that can put Australia at the front of a global renewable energy boom, which already employs more people worldwide than those directly employed in oil and gas,”

The findings are in contrast to recent research by the Minerals Council of Australia which found the mining sector would lose 24,000 jobs as a result of the Government’s proposed carbon reduction scheme.

The jobs predictions are likely to be used as ammunition on both sides of politics as the Coalition continues to oppose the Government’s scheme.

The Coalition is not budging on its position on the proposed ETS but is offering the Government bipartisan support for its carbon emissions reduction targets.

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull told reporters at a press conference in late May that his party was committed to carbon emission abatement but was in favour of other measures to reduce emissions to be used along side an emissions trading scheme.

“There are important measures to reduce emissions, be it in terms of energy efficiency or green carbon, as we’ve called it, biosequestration, soil carbon and other areas of individual action that are being overlooked.”

Mr Turnbull said the Coalition’s proposed voluntary carbon market (see our story on this) would allow individuals, firms, businesses and farms to undertake their own actions to reduce emissions and to create offsets, which would then be able to be banked against a future emissions trading scheme.

Treasury modelling found the emissions trading scheme would have only a small net effect on total employment in the long term, but heavy industry has been lobbying against high abatement targets, arguing there will be heavy job losses.

The Climate Institute research, undertaken by energy sector consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates (MMA), found the states to benefit most from clean energy project proposals were NSW (4921 jobs) South Australia (4586) and Victoria (4346).

The report also showed that measures such as a requirement that 20 per cent of energy comes from renewable sources by 2020, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the Budget’s Clean Energy Initiative could also build almost five times the energy capacity of the Snowy Hydro scheme.

According to The Climate Institute, the projected job numbers are conservative estimates.

They don’t include employment gains from energy efficiency policies, insulation and expansion of roof top solar and lower carbon traditional energy sources such as gas-fired generation or carbon, capture and storage, it says.  Also excluded is low carbon industrial job potential from bio-plastics through to sustainable water management.

“These clean energy jobs are just the beginning as we put in place stronger policies and as Australian industry invests more in the clean energy and low carbon industries which are the real growth areas for the global economy in the coming months, years and decades,” Connor said.

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au