Renewable energy does not constitute an industry within international statistical standards and employment in renewable energy is not revealed within standard industry-based employment statistics. This publication identifies a range of activities considered to be 'renewable energy activities' and uses various data sources and data techniques to estimate full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in renewable energy activities. It reports on annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia for the years 2009-10 to 2014-15.
Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia stood at 14,020 in 2014-15. This figure is an increase of 2,500 or 22 per cent on the employment level of 11,520 recorded for 2009-10. However, there has been a decline of 5,100 or 27 per cent from the peak of 19,120 recorded for 2011-12.
Employment in renewable energy activities is influenced by policies put in place by federal, state/territory and local governments. In order to facilitate analysis, a description is provided within the Explanatory Notes to this publication of some key government policies operating during the period 2009-10 to 2014-15.
STATES AND TERRITORIES
In 2014-15 NSW recorded the highest level of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities of any state or territory in Australia, with 3,990 FTE employees or 28 per cent of total employment in renewable energy activities in Australia. Queensland recorded 3,570 or 25 per cent of total employment in renewable energy activities, Victoria 2,630 (19 percent), Tasmania 1,200 (9 per cent), Western Australia 1,100 (8 per cent) and South Australia 940 (7 per cent).
For the years 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14, Queensland recorded the highest level of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities among Australia's states and territories, with 5,580 (29 per cent of the Australian total), 5,010 (30 per cent) and 3,840 (27 per cent) annual direct FTE employees respectively.
Since 2011-12 most states have recorded a decline in annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities. The largest such fall occurred in Queensland, where employment fell from 5,580 to 3,570 between 2011-12 and 2014-15, a decline of 2,010 or 36 per cent. For the same period, South Australia experienced a fall of 1,420 (from 2,360 to 940) or 60 per cent and Western Australia a fall of 1,130 (from 2,230 to 1,100) or 51 per cent. For the same period, employment was flat in Tasmania, while NSW and both territories experienced a rise in FTE employment. In NSW, annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities increased from 3,790 in 2011-12 to 3,990 in 2014-15, a rise of 200 or 5 per cent.
TYPE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
Among renewable energy activities, employment in roof-top solar photovoltaic modules (PV) (which includes solar hot water systems) made up the largest component of total direct annual FTE employment in 2014-15 with 7,480 or 53 per cent of all such employment. Though employment in this category fluctuated during the period from 2009-10 to 2014-15, it remained the largest single contributor to employment in renewable energy activities throughout this period. Its share peaked in 2011-12 when employment in roof-top solar PV made up 75 per cent of total direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities.
Employment in hydropower activity was relatively stable throughout the period 2009-10 to 2014-15, recording a low of 1,430 annual direct FTE employees in 2009-10 and a high of 1,820 in 2014-15. Employment in hydropower activity increased each year over the reporting period.
Employment in wind power is primarily driven by installation activity, rather than by ongoing operation and maintenance. As a result, this employment is heavily dependent on continuing formation of wind power infrastructure and is relatively volatile. Total annual direct FTE employment in wind power varied in size from a low of 1,110 in 2011-12 (6 per cent of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities) to a high of 1,720 in 2013-14 (12 per cent of the total).
Employment in renewable energy activities located in government entities and in non-profit institutions (NPIs) grew steadily from 460 in 2009-10 (or 4 per cent of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities) to 1,150 in 2014-15 (8 per cent of the total).
TYPE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY, BY STATE/TERRITORY
The composition of employment in renewable energy activities varied somewhat between states and territories. However, for most states and territories, employment was dominated by solar power (which includes roof-top solar PV, solar hot water systems and large scale solar). This dominance was strongest in Western Australia where 94 per cent of direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in 2014-15 was attributable to solar power. In both Queensland and Victoria, 66 per cent of direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in 2014-15 was attributable to solar power.
Biomass makes a significantly greater contribution to total employment in renewable energy activities in Queensland than in any other state or territory. Employment in Queensland related to biomass renewable energy activities rose from 1,010 in 2009-10 to 1,150 in 2014-15 at which point it comprised 32 per cent of the state's total employment in renewable energy activities. The Queensland sugar industry makes extensive use of the fibrous stalk of the sugar cane plant (bagasse) to generate electricity for use in sugar cane milling and for export to the electricity grid.
Tasmania is unique among Australian states and territories in that its employment in renewable energy activities is dominated by hydropower. Employment in hydropower activities in Tasmania increased from 840 in 2009-10 to 970 in 2014-15 and comprised 81 per cent of Tasmania's renewable energy employment in 2014-15.
KEY POLICY INFLUENCES ON RENEWABLE ENERGY EMPLOYMENT
Levels of employment in renewable energy activities are influenced by a number of government policies, including taxes, subsidies and pricing policies. The Explanatory Notes to this publication provide additional detail on the key influences affecting the published time series.
PENETRATION OF ROOF-TOP SOLAR PV ACROSS AUSTRALIA
This section provides a broad picture of the penetration of roof-top solar PV systems into Australia's stock of dwellings. The Clean Energy Regulator (2015) reports on the number of roof-top solar PV systems installed in Australia as at the end of 2015 (in excess of 1.4 million). The 2011 ABS Census of Population and Housing provides numbers of dwellings in Australia, by state and territory and by type of dwelling structure.
Table 1 reports that, across Australia, 19 percent of suitable private dwellings are equipped with a roof-top solar PV system. This penetration of roof-top solar PV varies markedly across states and territories, for example, in both Queensland and South Australia 29 percent of suitable private dwellings host a roof-top solar PV system, while just 8 percent of suitable private dwellings in the Northern Territory and 12 percent in Tasmania do so. Thus, there remains considerable scope to increase the number of roof-top solar PV systems in Australia.
Table 1: Percentage of suitable dwellings with Roof-top solar PV (a)
Not all types of dwelling structures are suitable for hosting roof-top solar PV systems, for example, caravans, tents and many units and apartments are unsuited to this arrangement. Some detached houses and terrace houses and townhouses have the structural capacity to host a roof-top solar PV system but are not a suitable candidate to do so, due to a poor solar aspect for example. It has not been possible to identify such dwellings and they have been included as 'suitable' for hosting roof-top solar PV systems.
The average size of an installed roof-top solar PV system in Australia is currently less than 3 kW capacity. In recent years, driven largely by falling prices for solar PV panels, the average size of such a system installed is now closer to 5 kW capacity. Thus, there is likely to be significant scope for increasing the size of many previously installed roof-top solar PV systems across Australia.
CLEAN ENERGY COUNCIL: ACCREDITED SOLAR POWER INSTALLERS
The 2015 report of the Clean Energy Council of Australia publishes numbers of accredited solar power installers. Accredited installers are solar PV system installers who have gained accreditation from the Clean Energy Council. In Australia, a roof-top solar PV system will not attract Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) unless it has been installed by an accredited installer. Typically, a roof-top solar PV system will be installed by a team, at least one of which is an accredited installer. Table 2 shows the ratio of Clean Energy Council accredited solar system installers to ABS annual direct FTE employment in roof top solar PV for each state and territory and for each year of the time series.
Table 2: Number of Clean Energy Council accredited Installers as a percentage of ABS FTE roof-top solar PV employment, 2009-10 to 2014-15 (a)
(a) A figure exceeding 100 per cent indicates that the number of Clean Energy Council accredited installers exceeds ABS FTE roof-top solar employment. This situation may arise when solar installers maintain their accreditation but do not undertake full-time installation of roof-top solar PV.
|New South Wales|
|Australian Capital Territory|
The two data items are not strictly comparable. In the first instance, Clean Energy Council data are reported on a calendar year basis, so that for example, data labelled "2014-15" in the table refers to calendar year 2015 data published by the Clean Energy Council. The ABS data captures FTE employment while Clean Energy Council data is a count of accredited installers and makes no claim on whether the installer works full-time, or indeed if the installer undertook any solar PV system installation activity within the year.
For the majority of states and territories, over time an increasing proportion of roof-top solar PV activities is being performed by installers who hold accreditation with the Clean Energy Council. The period since 2011-12 is characterised by a slowdown in numbers of roof-top solar PV systems installed across Australia. It coincides with an increase in the proportion of installers of such systems who are accredited with Clean Energy Council. This increasing proportion might simply be explained by a growing industry preference for installers to hold accreditation. It might also reflect a growing efficiency in installation practices such that smaller teams are employed. That is, as installation teams are downsized, it is possible that accredited installers are the more likely to be retained.
ELECTRICITY: ENERGY PRODUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT
Table 3 compares energy production and employment for the electricity supply industry and for selected types of renewable electricity production.
Table 3: Electricity generation and employment, by type of electricity production, 2009-10 to 2013-14
(a) Data are sourced from ABS Energy Account, Australia 2013-14 (cat. no. 4604.0).
(b) Data are sourced from Clean Energy Regulator, National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS).
(c) Electricity production from ABS cat. no. 4604.0 is available for years up to and including 2013-14. Employment data in this table apply a matching time series.
Electricity production (a) (PJ)
|Total electricity supply|
|Selected renewables (c)|
In Table 3 'Total electricity supply' is defined according to ANZSIC and therefore includes only employment within those units predominantly engaged in electricity production and supply - including production and supply of electricity from renewable sources. For example, it includes employment in electricity supply sourced from hydro power and from solar farms. It does not include employment required to build electricity power infrastructure. In contrast, the selected renewable employment estimates are taken from this publication and include for example employment related to the construction of renewable energy infrastructure by employees of construction entities. Thus, the two series must be compared with caution.
Total production of electricity within the Australian economy fell from 908 PJ in 2009-10 to 888 PJ in 2013-14. In comparison, electricity generated from selected renewable sources (solar, wind, hydropower and bagasse) rose from 82 PJ in 2009-10 to 138 PJ in 2013-14. Total employment in the electricity supply industry rose from 60,100 to a peak of 69,400 in 2012-13, before falling to 63,600 in 2013-14. Employment related to electricity production for selected renewables rose from 10,400 in 2009-10 to a peak of 17,900 in 2011-12, before falling to 12,900 in 2013-14. At its peak in 2011-12, employment in electricity from selected renewables was 27 per cent of the level of employment observed for the electricity supply industry.