A report from Ernst & Young (EY) says that a COVID economic recovery led by renewable energy would create three-times more jobs than a recovery led by fossil fuels.
The report was commissioned by WWF, and prepared by EY, who put forward six key areas that Australia could use to stimulate economic growth and move it toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Authors of the report state that Australia should become “a leader in global battery manufacturing,” with a proposed $500 million investment directed at transforming Australia into a “battery nation” that would add 4,500 manufacturing jobs and 2,300 construction and installation jobs.
Secondly, a $500 million investment into rolling out solar projects would create around 5,000 jobs and reduce energy costs for communities, while a $240 million investment into converting Australia’s bus fleet would double the current bus-related workforce from 10,000 to 20,000.
Next up, $520 million could be directed toward modernising Australia’s manufacturing industries with renewable power, thermal-efficiency and lowering their carbon footprint; authors state this could add 22,000 new jobs.
Finally, with the help of a $225 million government investment, Australia could “increase our fuel security and put us at the forefront of an expanding global market,” in the hydrogen fuel space.
One of these areas, the fast-tracking of renewable projects that are already in the construction pipeline, has been put forward as a relatively cheap means of creating more than 58,000 jobs.
In total, these key areas are said to cost around $2 billion, but would create more than $10 billion in economic activity and create more than 100,00 jobs. Authors of the report have stated that their aims could be achieved with regulation, government subsidies and tax incentives to encourage a transition toward renewable energy.
- Investment in manufacturing to reduce use of gas and build new clean-technology export industries. Cost: $520m Jobs: 22,000
- Make Australia a leading global battery manufacturer. Cost: $500m. Jobs: 7,800
- Make all buses electric. Cost: $240m Jobs: 10,000
- Subsidise solar for community organisations. Cost: $500m Jobs: 5,000
- Accelerate the renewable hydrogen industry. Cost: $225m. Jobs: 1,200
WWF Australia’s energy transition manager, Nicky Ison has said that “we can rebuild our economy in a way that sets up Australia for prosperity in a world hungry for a low-carbon future.”
“A clean stimulus package can address issues holding back renewables and get the ball rolling on more than 100,000 jobs,” she added, concluding that “we need to make choices right now that are both good for jobs in the short term and position us for that larger export opportunity.”
The call mirrors that of the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Antonio Gueterres, who recently said that “as we spend trillions to recover from COVID-19, we must deliver new jobs and businesses to a clean, green and just transition [toward renewable energy.”
Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor has added that “it is important that recovery programs always keep an eye on the climate… we must not sideline climate, but invest in climate technologies.”
The Australian government has established its COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC), which, according to reporting from The ABC has had one of its reports leaked that was advocating for a “gas-led manufacturing recovery,” which would provide subsidies for gas companies and relax environmental regulations for those companies.
Angus Taylor, the Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister has said that natural gas is set to underpin Australia’s transition toward more renewable energy in the grid.
“Australia is a world leader in renewables, however we must balance these intermittent energy sources with reliable baseload power,” Taylor said, adding that “the government believes reliable, affordable gas can play an important role in the post COVID-19 recovery in important industries such as manufacturing, which will create jobs and help strengthen the economy.”
Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group has said that “we need to look at this as an opportunity, not as a challenge and not as something that we should be afraid of.”
“We can make both the response to COVID-19 count and we can also transition to the future in a safe and sustainable way, particularly when it comes to energy,” she added.
Australasian president of steel manufacturer Molycop, Michael Parker, has told the ABC that although natural gas might assist in a transition, allowing renewables to lead the charge was “fundamentally one of the right things to do.”
“That would enable us to replace carbon that’s been derived from coal with rubber from old tyres… I think there’s a broader opportunity around promoting the circular economy, reusing recovered materials that would otherwise ended up in waste, and transforming those manufacturing processes,” he said.