Australian lobby touts plan for one million jobs in clean-energy sector

Infigen Energy Capital Wind Farm's wind turbines located on the hills surrounding Lake George, in Canberra, Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - An Australian clean-energy lobby group outlined a road map to the sector creating one million jobs, in response to calls from the country's powerful fossil fuel industry for a gas-powered economic revival from coronavirus.

The plan by Beyond Zero Emissions involves fast-tracking renewable power projects, improving energy infrastructure, and using an abundance of cheap wind and solar to power a renaissance in Australian manufacturing. Australia lost more than 800,000 jobs in April and May because of restrictions to stem the pandemic.

"In a carbon-constrained world, Australia should be a winner," Atlassian Corp co-founder and clean energy advocate Mike Cannon-Brookes said in a panel discussion to mark the launch of the plan. "Let's look at the natural resources we have, and we can build a renewable energy superpower."

Harnessing clean energy could help to create jobs in high unemployment areas where traditional heavy industry has disappeared, and provide opportunities in farming communities which have been hit by drought and bushfires, Beyond Zero Emissions said in a statement.

Energy minister Angus Taylor's call for a "gas-fired" economic recovery has been backed by members of a commission appointed by the government to plot the post-Covid revival. The commission, which has yet to deliver its final recommendations, has been criticised for being stacked with pro-gas executives such as former Fortescue Metals Chief Executive Officer Nev Power and former Dow Chemical Co head Andrew Liveris.

It was critical for the commission to be aware of the urgency of the clean-energy transition, Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said on the panel.

"I think this is the last chance for Australia," Figueres said. "This is the last chance to wake up and understand where investments and where the economy and energy in Australia, and especially where exports, need to go."

Beyond Zero Emissions' plan sees as many as 150,000 jobs created in building out solar and wind capacity as well as transmission infrastructure, 250,000 opportunities in modernising and expanding the manufacturing sector and 300,000 to create 3 million "Zero Energy Bill" buildings. Further gains would come from electrifying transportation, recycling and land restoration.

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