The rapid move to clean energy is pushing Australia, a worldwide coal and gas champion, to face one of the energy sector’s most difficult challenges: how to convert millions of fossil fuel employees to new jobs in wind and solar.
By the end of the decade, clean energy could generate over 38 million jobs globally, and satisfying that demand without even a labor crisis will necessitate stepping up efforts to not only attract new entrants but also to develop a clearer strategy to retrain the industry’s veteran workers as traditional fuel sources diminish.
That’s a job that’s just getting started in Australia, where coal’s hegemony is being challenged by inexpensive clean energy, and MPs who formerly championed fossil fuels are now campaigning on green jobs rather than fossil fuels.
According to Chris Briggs, who is a research director based at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, “the light is just coming on across governments and industry” that more investment in training is needed, with a shortage of experienced personnel already appearing for some existing projects and complicating plans to add more clean energy to assist nations to fulfill climate goals.
Companies such as Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, have funded the country’s maiden wind power training tower in Ballarat, a crucial 19th Century gold-mining center, where students, as well as ex-coal employees, can utilize a 23-meter-high platform to gain the expertise required for roles in renewables.
“At the moment, you have to fly them in from outside or send Australians overseas to get these capabilities,” said Duncan Bentley, Federation University vice-chancellor, which hosts the facility. The facility is the inaugural in the area to offer a critical safety qualification for those working in the wind industry.
Renewables generated about a third of the country’s electricity in 2021, more than doubling the share from four years earlier, as well as utilities are accelerating plans to phase out coal-fired power plants years ahead of schedule.
As per Chris Briggs, who is a research director of the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, some 10,000 coal employment in Australian power and mines plants associated with domestic energy production will be gone by 2036. More will undoubtedly leave when coal exporters close their doors.
Around 20,000 to 25,000 new employment will be created in the construction, maintenance, and operation of renewable energy over the same time span, according to Briggs.
Legislators are beginning to adjust as well. Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, scored a landslide victory in the 2019 election, thanks in part to his preservation of coal-mining jobs. He’s still promoting coal ahead of the May election, but he’s also advertising opportunities for people to obtain new jobs in clean hydrogen, despite his government being behind the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls.
Morrison announced money for two proposed hydrogen centers in Western Australia on Tuesday, claiming that they will create at least 3,600 new jobs.