Australia has the skills and talent to become a clean energy superpower but it will require significant training and education to design, build and operate modern energy infrastructure for the 21st century.
A Monash University report entitled Skilling the Energy Transition found Australia’s clean energy sector is unprepared for a period of extraordinary growth expected in the next two decades.
The report explored pathways into the clean energy workforce and provided a clear set of recommendations to address the barriers that limit the pool of skills and talent entering the industry.
The Australian clean energy industry currently employs around 30,000 people across large-scale renewable energy construction, operation and maintenance, and small-scale rooftop solar design and installation.
An additional 50,000 jobs will be created in the clean energy sector over the next 20 years but there are already shortages across many aspects of the existing workforce, particularly when it comes to engineers and electricians.
This shortfall could inhibit the enormous potential for job creation in clean energy, according to the deputy director of the Monash Energy Institute, Dr Roger Dargaville.
He said skills shortages have already delayed the construction of new clean energy projects.
“The problem is that the clean energy workforce is highly skilled,” Dargaville said.
“About 25 per cent of this workforce require postgraduate qualifications compared to only 10 per cent in the general workforce.
“Out of the 56 skill sets identified as being in short supply, 37 require a university qualification.
“Not so long ago the main barrier to uptake of renewable energy was economic viability. Today the biggest bottleneck is finding enough people with the right skills,” he said.
“The renewable energy transition is now in full swing with an average of 6 gigawatts of new utility scale and rooftop plant being built and installed each year. There is no time to delay.”
The Skilling the Energy Transition report recommendations include:
- Calibrate higher education to meet clean energy industries' interests.
- Anticipate clean energy workforce needs.
- Raise the profile of working in clean energy as an opportunity for all Australians.
- Establish a Transition Authority.
- Enhance the Vocational Education and Training sector's capacity to understand and meet the demands of industry.
- Raise the international profile of Australia and support increased transfer of international skills and capacity, so Australia becomes a global centre of clean energy expertise.
Clean Energy Council CEO, Kane Thornton, said opportunity comes knocking once in a generation
"Now is the time to take stock and put in place measures to ensure that people and jobs are a focus of this transition,” he said.
The 2022 ISP outlines the case for building 141 GW of large-scale wind and solar capacity, 63 GW of storage and hydro capacity, and 69 GW of small-scale solar and household batteries needed by 2050 to maintain reliability and keep prices down.
“This represents a ninefold increase in large-scale renewable generation installed in the National Electricity Market and a fivefold increase in small-scale generation,” Thornton said.
“By 2035, 75 per cent of clean energy jobs could be in regional Australia with the right policy settings.”