Wind farms power big surge in renewable energy jobs

26 January 2018 Celotti Workforce

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A boom in wind farms is fuelling a jobs surge in the renewable energy industry with 17 percent employment growth in the sector in December.

Nationwide, there are now 15,691 renewable energy jobs, rising to 21,168 when including those in small-scale rooftop solar installation. This is a 17 percent month-on-month increase from November job figures.

The boom in wind farms accounts for 71 percent of all renewable energy jobs. There are now 79 wind farms operating in the country and at least another six due to be built this year.

“While many Australians proudly think of the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme as a great construction and power engineering achievement, its power generation is now dwarfed by wind power,” research firm Green Energy Markets said.

“The wind farms under construction at present will produce twice as much power per annum as the Snowy Hydro scheme. When combined with wind farms already in operation, wind will supply five times more electricity per annum than that of the Snowy scheme.”

The new wind and large-scale solar projects committed to in 2017 will generate more than 10 terawatts hours of energy, equivalent to the entire power consumption of Tasmania. The largest will be the Murra Warra wind farm near Horsham in Victoria. In December, Telstra, ANZ, Coca-Cola Amatil and The University of Melbourne signed up to pre-purchase the energy generated from what will be the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere.

There were 4417 megawatts of renewable energy projects under construction in December, up 500 megawatts from November, lifting both construction and operational jobs.

The rapid growth is helping Australia hit its Renewable Energy Target, and increase the level of green energy in the nation's power mix.

Queensland is leading the way in renewable jobs and projects, following by Victoria, which recently displaced New South Wales for second place.

“We’ve got Victoria building our biggest wind farm, Queensland doubling its renewable jobs in just four months, and South Australia reaping the benefits of the world’s biggest battery,” GetUp environmental justice campaigner director Miriam Lyons said.

“Our electricity grid is in the midst of a transformation, and NSW needs to make sure it’s taking full advantage of the renewables boom that is creating meaningful work for thousands of people,” she said.

The growth in jobs has been supported by a record year in clean energy investment, as companies enter power purchase agreements totalling a record 5.4 gigawatts.

In 2017, financing and investment for renewable generation projects rose to almost $US7 billion ($8.75 billion).

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has played a major role in supporting these renewable energy investments, funding more projects in 2017 than in its last three years combined.

According to Green Energy Markets data, “if Australia kept up the 2017 levels of commitments for a further 10 years, renewable energy would approach two-thirds of Australia’s electricity supply.”

Renewable energy now accounts for 16.3 percent of Australia’s total annual generation, with 1150 gigawatt hours from wind; 953 gigawatt hours from small-scale rooftop solar; 779 gigawatt hours from hydro; 174 gigawatt hours from bio-generation, and 69 gigawatt hours from large-scale solar farms, creating enough renewable energy to power 6.9 million homes nationwide, and cutting emissions levels by approximately 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

This article was originally written for The Sydney Morning Herald and can be read here.