Photo by Ascel Kadhem on Unsplash

Newly appointed chief executive of Beyond Zero Emissions Heidi Lee is getting set for another big year.

First up is to hire a new research officer to join the currently 2.5 full time equivalent research team to develop strategies focused on renewable energy industrial precincts.

Lee, who’s helped as participant on our Net Zero event last year (see the massive ebook rounding up the content) said told The Fifth Estate on Tuesday that the focus is on the potential for a low carbon transformation to “the next level” both for manufacturing in existing heavy industry locations around the country and for Australia’s residential sector.

In the industrial sector Lee says, the focus is on “renewable energy industrial precincts, to bring manufacturing to life in heavy industrial locations around the country.”

The thinking aligns to the announcement last week that CEP Energy whose chairman is former NSW premier Morris Iemma would build a giant battery at Kurri Kurri north west of Newcastle in NSW.

The 1200-megawatt battery would be eight times more powerful than the Hornsdale battery that fuels South Australia’s grid and according to chief executive Peter Wright would create jobs on a site that is perfect for its “strong infrastructure that would allow the battery to easily connect to the energy grid”, the ABC reported.

“The site itself is not farming land, it’s zoned as heavy industrial land with a specific use for power generation, so it’s fit for purpose,” Wright said.

At nearby Lake Macquarie Origin Energy is thinking along similar lines, announcing a  plans for a 700-megawatt battery at its Eraring power station.

But that’s just half the story of where Australia needs to go to create the 1 million jobs that BZE framed as possible and do-able in its plan announced last year, Lee says.

The other part is decarbonising Australia’s residential sector through a low energy home improvement scheme.

Now this is trickier than tackling the industrial sector.

Australians typically don’t get home retrofits, Lee says. “When they get it they get it deeply.  But if you don’t’ get it, you don’t want to even hear about it – you either love it or hate it.”

So how about a renewable energy retailer that not only supplies green energy but engages low carbon retrofits for dwellings, financed by the energy savings that would follow? This might include insulation, solar panels or batteries.

At the same time ensuring that the home-owner is no worse off.

The thinking here is borrowed from the commercial sector which has pioneered these types of contracts to achieve energy savings for clients.

Typically, the deal can involve installing energy saving equipment on behalf of the owner under lease or other beneficial management arrangement so that the client simply pays for energy as a service rather than needing to be responsible for expensive and sometimes complicated infrastructure.

Lee promises the new researcher will have a “beautiful team to work with.” Not just the existing three researchers – around 2.5 full time equivalents – but an army of about 800 volunteers that include 120 people with PhDs and y 500 professionals “ready to go”.

Lee’s team will aim to put in a pre-federal budget submission on both plans.

Jobs rush in public housing sector

Lee, who is also chair of Common Equity Housing with about 2500 dwellings under management, says that there is a big uptick in hiring by social and community housing groups to take full advantage of the potential for strong energy efficiency and environmental outcomes possible with the Victorian government’s $5.3 billion injection into social housing.

The package is driving a rush to bolster teams in social and community housing groups to meet the target of 12,000 homes in four years.

Community Housing Industry Association Victoria chief executive officer Lesley Dredge said that since the announcement in November, CHIA Vic confirms her members having been gearing up to deliver.

Scant funding in the past meant that most members had lightly resourced development teams. Now, larger associations are looking to boost their development arms, Ms Dredge said, and smaller members are seeking talented project managers and consultants.

“We are confident that the sector can rise to the occasion with support from our development partners – state and local governments and the development industry,” she said.

The downside is the potential pressure on skills and trades to deliver the goods and the need to avoid a blow out as demand surges.

Lee for one is in discussion with sustainability leader Caroline Pidcock and groups such as 1 Million Women to encourage women to enter the trades and bolster capacity.

A new RMIT report shows that the Australian construction industry has made little headway in attracting women, with female participation hovering around 2 per cent over the last 30 years.

The report also found that 95 per cent of the women interviewed thought they were treated differently by men in the industry because of their gender.

While some women interviewed had only positive experiences to report, almost a third had experienced negative incidents, “ranging from gender discrimination at one end of the continuum to alleged sexual assault at the other extreme”.

A failure to accommodate women with child-rearing responsibilities is also an issue. As many as 78 per cent reported poor work-life balance, and how long working hours and shift work affected their health, social life and relationships.

The CFMEU VIC welcomed the findings, and stated that its latest enterprise bargaining agreement included gender inclusive conditions such as trialling shift sharing to help families, training and education on gendered violence, and increasing parental and partner leave.

The report is designed to inform the Victorian government’s $500,000 strategy for attracting and retaining women in the industry.

Job movements

Award winning environmentalist Arron Wood has taken on a new role at Bendigo Kangan Institute as chief industry engagement & education delivery officer.

The former councillor and former deputy Lord Mayor for City of Melbourne mentioned the organisation’s work teaching migrants and in correction facilities as reasons for taking the role.

Mr Wood has been working in the education space for some time, including starting the Kids Teaching Kids program that aims to inspire future environmental leaders.

He’s sat on several boards, including the Enterprise Melbourne Advisory Board to attract sustainable investment to Melbourne and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.

After serving as president of the NSW chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects since 2019, Kathlyn Loseby has become the CEO of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia.

Ms Loseby also finished up as COO at architectural practice Crone last month.

Our pick of the jobs

Western Sydney University is hiring a chair of architecture, which sits within the School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment.

Impact Seed, a Western Australian business specialising in impact investment, impact measurement & social enterprise, is looking for a social enterprise business consultant.

Clean energy startup Amber is on the hunt for a customer operations specialist. The job is based in Melbourne.

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