Renewable energy: powering Australia in more ways than one

A jobs boom is sweeping across regional Australia and there’s one industry to thank – the renewable energy sector. From places like Gordon in southern Tasmania to Pindari in north-east NSW, new solar installations, windfarms, battery arrays, solar towers and pumped hydro facilities are springing life into regional towns. How are they doing this? By injecting desperately needed investment and job opportunities into remote locations.

In Far North Queensland, the Kidston solar array and pumped-hydro project will create 588 jobs this year. At the other end of the country in Port Augusta, Sundrop Farm’s first-of-its-kind solar tower for Australia creates another 200 jobs. Meanwhile over the border, Stawell in western Victoria is preparing for an influx of 1300 jobs from Nectar Farms combined windfarm, battery storage and 10-hectare hothouse facility.

This is great news! But despite the steady stream of new developments in regional areas, we’re actually being short-changed. Policy uncertainty due to ongoing internal squabbles in the Federal Government is strangling the growth of this sector and costing regional Australia the true jobs boom it deserves.

Australia has the richest renewable energy resources in the world. We have enough to power the nation 500 times over, yet we have some of the least ambitious renewable energy targets in the developed world.

If politicians could simply commit to a modest and achievable 50 per cent renewable energy target, this would create 28,000 new jobs. The vast majority would be in regional Australia where they are greatly needed to breathe new life into struggling local economies.

A renewable energy investment boom is a light on the horizon for many regional towns, we can’t let backwards politics spoil this once in a generation opportunity.

James Wright is chief executive officer of the Future Business Council.