Renewables job numbers hit three-year high – led by Australia’s coal states

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Full time jobs in renewable energy increased across the board in 2016-17, led by industry growth in two of Australia’s most coal-dependent states, NSW and Queensland.

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The number of Australians employed in full-time jobs by the renewable energy industry has been estimated at 14,820 in 2016-17, a 33 per cent jump in FTE (full-time equivalent) employment from the 2015/16 period, and the highest numbers seen since the boom-time of 2012-13.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which released the updated data on Wednesday, the jump in renewables jobs for 2016/17 was mostly driven by the development pipeline of solar and wind farms, although rooftop solar remains the biggest single employer, in terms of full-time jobs.

The data shows that increases in FTE employment in large-scale solar PV (1,240 additional FTE jobs) and wind (1,370 additional FTE jobs) accounted for over two thirds (71%) of the increase in full time renewable energy jobs for the year, the ABS says.

Roof-top solar, meanwhile, provided 6,430 FTE jobs in 2016/17, as favourable policy and economics and soaring electricity prices combined to drive residential uptake to new heights.

This increase in rooftop solar installations resulted in 860 additional FTE jobs for the year, the data shows, and provided 43 per cent of total FTE employment related to renewable energy for that period.

“Roof-top solar PV remains the largest renewable energy sector in terms of FTE employment,” the ABS says.

“While employment in this category has fluctuated it has remained the largest single contributor since 2009-10 (Figure 2). Its share peaked in 2011-12, when employment in roof-top solar PV made up 74 per cent of total direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities and has declined since then.”

On a state-by-state basis, there has been an increase in FTE employment in renewables across the board in 2016-17, led by growth in two of Australia’s most coal power dominated states, New South Wales and Queensland.

Those two states, says the ABS, delivered the largest increases in total FTE employment in renewables, both increasing numbers by more than 1,000 FTE jobs, of the back of mostly large-scale solar in Queensland, and wind farms in NSW.

South Australia, more predictably, saw the largest proportional year-on-year increase in FTE employment (110%), driven by construction work on large-scale wind generation facilities.

Combined, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia accounted for 78 per cent of all renewable energy employment in Australia, the ABS said.

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