This publication presents estimates of direct full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in renewable energy activities in Australia, for the years 2009-10 to 2017-18.
Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia was estimated at 17,740 jobs in 2017-18. As Figure 1 shows, this is an increase of 3,890 jobs in FTE employment (28%) from the previous year (2016-17) and represents the highest level of FTE employment in renewable energy activities since 2011-12.
Figure 1 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2017-18
The increase in FTE employment in renewable energy activities between 2016-17 and 2017-18 has been driven by an increase in construction activity for large scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (1,950 additional FTE jobs) and roof-top solar PV (1,720 additional FTE jobs). Together, these two renewable energy types accounted for 94% of this increase in FTE employment in renewable energy. The only category to record a fall in employment between 2016-17 and 2017-18 was government and non-profit institutions (NPIs) (down by 50 FTE employees, or 5%).
Types of renewable energy
Roof-top solar PV remained the largest FTE employer among renewable energy types, comprising 8,240 FTE jobs or 46% of total FTE employment related to renewable energy in 2017-18. While employment in this category has fluctuated over time, it has been the largest single contributor in every year of the published time series. Its share peaked in 2011-12, when employment in roof-top solar PV made up 74% of total direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities, but its share has declined each year since.
Figure 2 - Annual direct FTE employment in roof-top solar activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2017-18 (a)
In 2017-18 large scale solar PV was the second largest contributor (after roof-top solar PV) to FTE employment related to renewable energy activities (16% of total) after contributing less than 1% in each year between 2009-10 and 2012-13. It experienced the largest increase in FTE employment of any renewable energy type between 2016-17 and 2017-18, increasing from 930 FTE jobs to 2,880 FTE jobs. This is despite there being an increase in the efficiency of developing large scale solar PV systems. Hydro electricity (2,020 FTE jobs), wind (1,890 FTE jobs) and biomass (1,650 FTE jobs) all made a significant contribution to total FTE employment in renewable energy activities in 2017-18.
Figure 3 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by type of renewable energy (a), 2009-10 to 2017-18
In Australia, hydro and biomass represent mature renewable energy sources, with much of their supporting infrastructure having been in place for some time. Employment in these areas is therefore relatively stable over the reported time series. In contrast, recent employment recorded against wind and solar energy - both roof-top solar and large scale solar - relates predominately to construction activity and is therefore more volatile, reflecting the fluctuation of energy infrastructure capital formation.
States and territories
All states reported an increase in FTE employment related to renewable energy activities between 2016-17 and 2017-18, while both territories reported small declines. Queensland reported the largest increase (up by 1,550 FTE jobs), with Victoria and New South Wales reporting an increase of 1,020 and 950 jobs respectively. In Queensland and Victoria this increase was mainly driven by the construction of large scale solar PV facilities, and in New South Wales mainly by construction of roof-top solar PV.
Among Australian states and territories, Victoria reported the largest percentage increase (47%) in FTE employment between 2016-17 and 2017-18, followed closely by Queensland (44%). New South Wales also reported strong growth in FTE employment in renewable energy activities (up 27%).
Together New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland accounted for 72% of all FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia in 2017-18.
Figure 4 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by state and territory, 2012-13 to 2017-18
Penetration of roof-top solar PV across Australia
Levels of FTE employment supporting the installation of roof-top solar PV systems are influenced by various government policies, including taxes, subsidies, pricing policies and renewable energy targets.
Data from the Clean Energy Regulator (2019) reports that there were cumulatively over 2 million roof-top solar PV systems installed in Australia at the end of December 2018. This can be compared to the 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing numbers of dwellings in Australia that are suitable for roof-top solar PV systems. This can broadly illustrate the coverage of roof-top solar PV systems into Australia's stock of private dwellings.
In Australia, 24% of suitable private dwellings were equipped with a roof-top solar PV system as at December 2018. A suitable dwelling is defined as a separate house or a semi-detached row or terrace house.
Figure 5 - Percentage of suitable dwellings with roof-top solar PV, 2017-18
The penetration of roof-top solar PV varies markedly across states and territories. For example, in Queensland 36% and in South Australia 34% of suitable private dwellings host a roof-top solar PV system. Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory each had 17% of suitable private dwellings host a roof-top solar PV system, while in Tasmania the proportion is 15%. Every state and territory in Australia recorded an increase in roof-top solar PV penetration between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Not all types of dwelling structures are suitable for hosting roof-top solar PV systems, for example, caravans, tents and many units and apartments. Some detached houses, terrace houses and townhouses have the structural capacity to host a roof-top solar PV system but are impractical for other reasons, such as a poor solar aspect. It is not possible to separately identify and exclude such dwellings.