Solar energy boom leading to sharp increases in renewable energy sector jobs: ABS

Australian solar panel installationsAustralian solar

Newly released stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show an increase in full-time renewable energy sector jobs of approximately 33 per cent in 2016-17 from the previous year.

Large-scale solar energy installations, rooftop solar and wind farms were the biggest contributors to this jump in employment numbers, which sit at almost 15,000.

The ABS data covers estimates of full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in the renewable energy sector from 2009-10 to 2016-17.

All renewables covered in new data

Renewable energy categories covered in the paper include solar rooftop, hot water and large-scale solar projects, as well as wind, biomass, geothermal and wave energy.

ABS stats on renewable energy sector jobs

ABS stats show rooftop solar is the largest employer in the rewewable energy sector

As well as actual installations, the statistics include other related jobs. For example, in rooftop solar panel installations it includes site and electrical preparations, roof modifications, testing and certification and project management.

Crunching the renewable energy sector jobs numbers

Almost three-quarters of the increase in FTE was due to large-scale solar and wind projects, according to the data. In addition, increases in rooftop solar installations led to 860 additional jobs during the period.

The data also shows:

  • Rooftop solar remains the largest renewable energy sector, accounting for 43 per cent of FTE jobs.
  • The eastern mainland states accounted for 78 per cent of FTE employment in the sector.
  • NSW and Queensland experienced the largest increases – of more than 1,000 jobs each.

The promise of lower electricity bills is a major factor in solar uptake. Other influencing factors include government policies such as subsidies, renewable energy targets and pricing policies.

Queensland leading the way on solar

The Sunshine State appears to be living up to its name when it comes to solar. Rooftop solar penetration in the state sits at 32 per cent. South Australia follows at 31 per cent, then Western Australia at around 26 per cent.

The rest of the states and territories are below 20 per cent. The Northern Territory is the lowest on 13 per cent.

Queensland provides a clear example of how state government support for renewables influences uptake of solar. State policy include no-interest loans for solar and energy storage batteries for households and small businesses, and rebates on solar batteries. The statistics indicate this approach can lead to lower costs for consumers and an increase in employment in the sector.