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The impact of renewable technologies on the energy sector is akin to the pace of change brought about by the invention of the steam engine. Thanks to Australia’s unique geography and climate, government incentives and the falling prices of renewable technologies, renewables are rapidly changing the dynamics of Australia’s electricity grid and creating new skills needs for workers.
In 2018, across the country, electricity generation from renewables accounted for 21 per cent of total electricity production, its highest level ever. Hydro and wind generation contributed an almost identical amount to total national electricity generation, 7.5 and 7.1 per cent respectively. This represented a share of 35.2 and 33.5 per cent of total renewable generation.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) was the third most popular renewable technology in 2018 which is continuing to gain momentum with a growing number of households investing in solar panels. One in five Australian households now have rooftop solar. Australians have installed more than two million solar PVs which produce 4.2 per cent of Australia’s power, equating to 19.6 per cent of total renewable electricity generation.
The increased confidence in renewables has caused an unprecedented level of industry investment. Investment in large-scale clean energy projects doubled to more than $20 billion in 2018. More than 13,800 direct jobs were created from the large-scale renewable projects in 2018 and 38 projects were completed throughout the year. Currently, 87 large-scale renewable energy projects are under construction or financially committed at the beginning of 2019. These projects will deliver 14.5 MW of new renewable energy capacity.[i]
With such growth prospects, what are the implications for the workforce and skills development? There is an increasing demand for electricians across the renewable sector. Skills are needed for the design, installation, and maintenance of battery storage solutions for Photo Voltaic systems. First-responders with skills to maintain equipment and thus the stability of energy supply are also in demand. Training and skills development strategies are essential to ensure the workforce can keep abreast of technological changes.
[i] Clean Energy Council. (2019). Clean Energy Australia Report 2019.