Last updated June 10, 2020 at 10:32 am
Dedicating a fraction of the economic stimulus to renewable energy technology can result in 100,000 new jobs and billions in economic return.
Why This Matters: The recovery from COVID-19 provides an opportunity to invest in science and technology.
An economic recovery plan which backs renewable energy technology would create nearly three times as many jobs per dollar spent as a fossil-fuel led package, shows a new report by financial consultancy EY.
The report is the latest in a string that show the economic benefits of investing in science and technology. The investments would also play a major role in minimising Australia’s contribution to climate change.
A government focus on renewable energy and climate projects would result in around 100,000 jobs being created in Australia, the analysis found. The economic boost would also re-establish local manufacturing by transitioning into high-technology and renewable energy industry, as well as set a definitive path towards zero net emissions by 2050, as stipulated by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the report found that every million dollars spent on renewable energy creates 4.8 full-time jobs. Investing in energy efficiency results in 4.95 jobs for every million dollars invested. By comparison, spending one million dollars on fossil fuel projects creates only 1.7 full-time jobs.
It comes as the Federal Government talks of a “gas-fired” recovery. Experts have expressed disappointment with that approach, with John Quiggin from the University of Queensland stating the government “remains fixated on extractible resources such as coal and gas, ignoring our massive endowment of solar and wind resources”.
Instead, investing around 10% of the various stated COVID-19 stimulus packages on renewable energy has the potential to create 160,000 jobs around the country, says the WWF.
“It represents a fraction of the immediate government stimulus package while generating significant job numbers and reorienting the economy towards a more strategic, low-carbon trajectory,” the report authors write.
Australia is already rated as the fourth most attractive country in the world for renewable energy investments.
Australia to become world leader in battery manufacturing and electric transport
The investment into environmentally-friendly technology and research has the potential to position Australia not only as a world-leader in the development of clean technology, but also in its manufacture, say the report authors. These moves would future-proof Australian industry.
Fast-tracking developments already in the pipeline, with minimal cost to taxpayers, would create nearly 58,000 construction jobs. In addition, EY and the WWF identified five other areas for a $2 billion stimulus package.
- Become a leader in global battery manufacture.
Cost: $500 million. Jobs: 4,500 manufacturing jobs, and 2,300 jobs in construction and installation.
- Investments in community solar projects
Cost: $500 million. Jobs: Up to 5,000. Other benefits: cut the costs of energy for thousands of schools, hospitals, country fire stations and Indigenous communities across regional Australia.
- Electric bus manufacturing
Cost: $240 million. Jobs: Doubling current bus manufacturing workforce from 10,000 to 20,000. Other benefits: Exports around the globe.
- Conversion of manufacturing industries to renewable power sources
Cost: $520 million. Jobs: 22,000. Other benefits: Reduce energy bills and increase the efficiency of local manufacturing.
- Accelerate renewable hydrogen industry
Cost: $225 million. Jobs: 1,200. Other benefits: Increase local fuel security and allow exports to global markets.
According to the report, the stimulus could include tax incentives, direct subsidies and changes in regulation. Together the developments would provide around $10 billion in economic benefits, and create an additional 45,000 jobs.
Widespread support for industry transformation
The findings have support from some industries, reports the ABC. Already, 14 groups including the Business Council of Australia have signed a joint letter supporting investment in renewable energy technologies as part of the economic stimulus packages.
Newcastle steelmaker Molycop has also signalled its support, with Australasian president Michael Parker telling the ABC it was “fundamentally one of the right things to do.” Molycop has already moved half of its electricity supply to renewable energy, and is working to reduce its need for coal in steel furnaces.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also signalled the benefits of investing in new technologies and science.
“It is important that recovery programs always keep an eye on the climate,” she told a recent online climate summit.
“We must not sideline climate, but invest in climate technologies.”