Australia is one of the few places in the world where green jobs are decreasing according to figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Globally the sector now provides an estimated 6.6 million jobs, an increase of 800,000 from 2013 figures, but in Australia, jobs across solar photovoltaics and solar heating have declined, with up to 22 per cent of jobs lost in PV and 20 per cent in heating, according to Ethical Jobs general manager Michael Cebon.
Mr Cebon told The Fifth Estate the job losses are entirely the result of government policy, both through loss of incentives at the federal level and backpedalling by state governments.
While energy efficiency jobs have not suffered the same dramatic degree of slowdown, the withdrawal of government support for those programs has also impacted employment, Mr Cebon said.
“The extra incentive makes a difference. It is not a good picture all around for green jobs in Australia.”
IRENA’s 2014 Renewable Energy and Jobs Review showed that almost all the green jobs growth globally has been in solar energy-related jobs, with an estimated 2.3 million solar PV jobs worldwide, up from 1.4 million in 2012.
The report also showed a clear shift in jobs towards developing economies, in particular China, India and Brazil.
Mr Cebon said this, combined with the recent leadership moves in the USA, is a trend Australia should be following.
“I think it is pretty clear from what is happening around the world that investment in renewable energy is the future, and with that investment comes jobs,” Mr Cebon said.
“The Australian government policy at the moment is to wind back that investment, but you can only wind back so far. You can only delay the future for so long.
“World’s best practice is definitely ahead of us.”
Pressure from forward-thinking global businesses is another factor Mr Cebon said may assist with changing Australia’s retrograde policy direction.
“Australia is missing on huge numbers of jobs, there is definitely a structural change around the world in terms of energy investment,” Mr Cebon said.
He said analysis by the University of Massachusetts in the USA shows investment in renewable energy has a higher job creation ratio per dollar than investment in fossil fuels. This is because fossil fuel projects require much higher insurance; pay higher wages to compensate for remoteness or danger; pay higher workers compensation premiums; have a more expensive transport footprint for staff and materials; and require more complex infrastructure.
“When an investment is made in renewable energy, more of the dollars go directly into employment,” Mr Cebon said.