Renewable Energy is a Jobs Rich Industry
30 May 2016 at 11:07 am
A Not for Profit organisation dedicated to growing the community energy sector in Australia has claimed renewable energy is a jobs rich industry.
The Community Power Agency said Australian regions and towns can maximise employment in renewable energy with community-owned projects.
It comes after a new global report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed that renewable energy jobs were on the rise, with community-owned projects to benefit most.
More than 8.1 million people around the world are now employed in renewable energy, up 5 per cent on last year.
Nicky Ison Community Power Agency director said renewable energy was a jobs-rich industry and when such projects were community-owned that created even more employment.
“The research from the US – because there are a lot more community energy programs in the US than here – shows that if you have a community ownership stake in a larger renewables project, like owning a couple of wind turbines in a larger wind farm, the economic benefit to that local community in terms of jobs, investment, money circulating in the local economy, the economic benefit is 1.5 to 3.5 times greater,” Ison told Pro Bono Australia News.
“More of the money stays in the local community because the dividends or lower power bills are going to people in that community.
“Then there’s other benefits like increased social capital, because this is about people coming together to deliver local solutions.”
The Community Power Agency – which specialises in supporting community groups to set up a community owned renewable energy (CORE) project – is directly working with the 70 community energy groups across Australia.
Ison said there was an opportunity for communities to get involved.
“People can get involved in those projects and volunteer their time, when new projects come up they can invest in them and if there isn’t a community energy group in your local area you can start one,” Ison said.
“Australia has some of the best solar and wind resources in the world, we also have good bio energy resources as well, because renewable energy is a technology that is very contextual, if the sun shines harness the sun, if the wind blows harness the wind, it is something that communities can do pretty much no matter where they are across Australia.
“We, both globally and here in Australia, are in the midst of an energy transition. We have an ageing coal-fired power fleet, the average age is more than 37 years old and the useful life of a coal-fired power station is between 35 and 40 years, so we’ve got to move. We’ve got to transition our energy system, not only for climate change reasons but also for practical infrastructure reasons, and that means there’s going to be a lot of investment in new energy in the next 15 years, and there is an opportunity for communities to get a piece of that, both in terms of jobs and the money that comes with it.”
Looking towards the election, the Community Power Agency is calling on all political parties to put in place robust policy to support the growth of community energy innovation in Australia.
“One of the key factors that drives job growth is getting the right policy setting and a stable policy environment,” Ison said.
“So we had excellent growth in renewable energy when we had bipartisan support for the Renewable Energy Targets and when that stopped, when the coalition pulled its support and undertook a review and signalled its intention to cut the RET, that led to a decline in investment and a decline in jobs.
“We focus specifically on community energy and community owned renewable energy so that’s where people like you and I, mums and dads, farmers etc. have an ownership stake, have a share in a renewable energy project.”
The NFP is running a campaign – the Smart Energies Communities Campaign – in a bid to try and address the barriers that community energy groups face.
“So that is red tape, lack of access to early stage funding and its lack of support,” Ison said.
“We’ve had the National Landcare Program for 25 years now and it’s been a really successful program in supporting both volunteers and jobs in natural resource management, and we think that community renewables is a new wave of local environmentalism and we want to put in place similar support policies for volunteer organisations and local enterprises and local Not for Profits who are trying to set up community energy projects for the benefit of their communities.
“In terms of the focus for the election… the ALP and the Greens have both come out with excellent renewable energy policy and have been talking about it quite a lot. They could be talking about it more. But certainly the ALP has committed $28.7 million to support community energy projects across Australia and they have also committed to a 50 per cent renewables target by 2030, so there is some good policy basis there, we are yet to see any kind of announcement on this type of thing from the Coalition which is very disappointing.
“I really think – actually it’s not that I think – I know, that this is the way of the future and I think it is really shortsighted not to be considering.”