As many as 20,000 new clean energy jobs could be created in Queensland over the next three years, if political parties embraced policies supporting the sector, according to a new report from the Climate Council released ahead of the Queensland election.
The Climate Council has identified 12 clean energy policy areas, that could create more than a four-fold increase in the number of clean energy workers in the state, as well as unlocking massive reserves of precious metals used in solar panels wind turbines and batteries.
“There are so many reasons to be optimistic about Queensland’s economic future as it rebuilds from COVID-19,” the Climate Council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie said. The growth of renewable energy generation in the state is bringing down power prices, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which will help protect Queensland’s natural tourism assets, like the Great Barrier Reef.”
“The Queensland Government can seize this moment to create jobs that get people back to work now, and turn Queensland into a clean industry superpower. Generations of Queenslanders could work in these clean industries.”
The analysis has been released less than a month before the October 31 state election, with recent polling suggests that the election will be a closely fought contest between incumbent premier Annastacia Pałaszczuk and LNP challenger Deb Frecklington.
According to the report, Queensland has substantial reserves of minerals used in the production of solar panels and batteries, and could provide an opportunity for the state to pivot away from coal and maintain a status as a resources superpower.
“The value of the ‘new economy minerals’ deposits in the region exceeds $500 billion,” the Climate Council’s head of research, Dr Martin Rice said.
“Expanding domestic mining and processing of critical minerals also increases Australia’s self-reliance by protecting our supply chains from potential disruption.”
Key to Queensland’s clean energy opportunity is the establishment of renewable energy zones, allowing larger developments of clean energy projects like wind, solar and storage to be clustered around coordinated network infrastructure.
Last month, the Palaszczuk government announced that it would develop three renewable energy zones, in North Queensland, Central Queensland and South West Queensland. The state government expects the zones could add as much as 16,000MW of additional renewable energy capacity and has committed $145 million in funding to support their development.
The Climate Council found that regional Queensland could be the main beneficiary of the growth of Queensland’s clean energy sector, given the state’s abundance of high-quality solar resources and the regional industrial presence .
“Regional cities like Townsville, Gladstone and Mackay have the skilled workforce, close proximity to excellent renewable resources, and established industrial infrastructure that makes them ideal to develop clean industries,” McKenzie added.
According to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 6,300 Queenslanders are employed in the renewable energy sector, three-quarters of whom work in the solar industry.
The Climate Council says that a further 20,000 jobs could be created within the next three years with government support initiatives like the establishment of lithium-ion battery manufacturing, the creation of additional renewable energy zones and the construction of the CopperString 2.0 network infrastructure project.
Dr Rice added that strong investment in clean energy would not just benefit Queensland’s energy and resources sectors, but would also be a crucial opportunity to contribute to protecting Queensland’s vulnerable environmental systems from the impacts of climate change and the tourism attracted by sites like the Great Barrier Reef.
“Climate change is taking a devastating toll on Queensland. This year saw another mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef – the third in five years, and bushfires scorched World Heritage rainforests previously considered too wet to burn. Queenslanders also suffered from flooding and drought,” Dr Rice said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for governments to invest in programs that will deliver secure, skilled and long-term jobs now and into the future for Queenslanders. It’s a win-win-win, for the economy, for jobs and for our climate.”