Solar shines as star employer in surging renewable jobs market

Renewable jobs in solar energy make up largest proportion of whole.

Renewable jobs are growing across Australia with jobs in the solar sector growing fastest.

Yesterday’s figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show the highest level of estimated full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in renewable energy since 2011-12.

The Employment in Renewable Energy Activities, Australia, 2017-18 report shows the staggering advance of solar energy. Construction activity in large-scale solar panel systems and rooftop solar PV now makes up 94 per cent of the increase in clean energy industry employment.

Renewable jobs show steady growth in flourishing sector

Annual direct FTE employment in Australia’s renewable sector is estimated at 17,740 jobs in 2017-18. This is an increase of 3,890 FTE jobs (28%) from the previous year (2016-17) and the highest level since 2011-21.

Renewable jobs booming in solar sector.

Renewable energy employment is on the rise – and solar energy takes the lion’s share. Image: ABS

The latest increase has been driven by the continuing solar boom, ABS figures show.

A surge in construction of large-scale solar power systems and farms saw an extra 1,950 FET jobs created between 2017 and 2018. Booming rooftop solar brought in an extra 1,720 FTE jobs. In fact, rooftop solar has been the single biggest contributor to growth in every year of published ABS figures.

Rooftop solar therefore remains the largest FTE employer in the renewable sector. It represents 8,240 FTE renewable jobs or 46 per cent of total FTE employment in 2017-18.

Large-scale solar hitting its stride

According to ABS figures, large-scale solar energy projects saw the biggest increase in FTE employment in the renewable sector between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The figure rose from 930 to 2,880 FTE renewable jobs during that time. This beat employment increases in hydro-electricity (2,020), wind (1,890) and biomass (1,650) in the same period.

Large-scale solar PV was the second biggest contributor to FTE employment, after rooftop solar panel installations, in 2017-18. It now represents 16 per cent of total FTE renewable jobs.

This is in stark contrast to contributions of less than 1 per cent in each year between 2009-10 and 2012-13.

Renewable jobs: How the states stack up

Clean Energy Regulator (CER) data reveals more than 2 million rooftop solar installations in Australia at the end of 2018. This makes up 24 per cent of suitable private dwellings with more people seeking solar quotes.

All states reported an increase in renewable jobs as expressed in FTE employment between 2016 and 2018. However, the ACT and Northern Territory both showed slight declines.

Queensland reported the largest increase of 1,550 FTE renewable jobs with Victoria (1,020) and NSW (950) following. NSW, Victoria and Queensland combined made up 72 per cent of all FTE renewable jobs in Australia in 2017-18.

However, Victoria showed the largest percentage increase (47%) between 2016-17 and 2017-18 followed by Queensland with 44 per cent.

Large-scale solar construction drove growth in Queensland and Victoria with rooftop solar leading in NSW.