Renewable energy developers and operators said the figures reflected the ability of wind and solar investment to generate significant employment. “The ABS data is an excellent illustration of the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible in the renewable energy sector in terms of employment,” said Kane Thornton, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, an industry group.
However, the Clean Energy Council expressed concerns held by some in the renewable energy sector that investment was slowing down following a record-breaking two years.
Investors have cited national energy policy uncertainty and grid constraints faced by solar and wind farm developers as key reasons for pulling back.
Mr Thornton said encouraging investment to replace the nation’s ageing coal-fired power stations when they retire from service must be a top priority for government.
“With Australia’s ageing coal-fired power stations at the end of their lifespan, we’re at a critical point,” Mr Thornton said.
“Long term, we need government investment in upgrading our electricity grid … it will create a significant boost in employment in regional Australia, which we know is crucial to a prosperous Australian economy.”
While concerns surround investment in grid-scale solar projects, data compiled by consultancy Green Energy Markets suggested Australians installed solar panels on their roofs at a record rate last month, before the coronavirus pandemic began affecting supply and demand.
Last month, installers registered 54 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems of 100 kilowatts or smaller, 44 per cent more than in March 2019, the data said.
Richie Merzian, climate and energy director at progressive think tank The Australia Institute, said the 72 per cent jobs increase in Victoria showed how the state’s renewable energy target and other government programs could drive significant employment growth
“Governments concerned about energy security and modernisation, and looking for ways to stimulate employment, have this clear answer right in front of them,” he said.
“The data shows the renewable energy sector is able to ramp up work very quickly and employ large numbers of people.”
Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
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