In recent years, Australia has experienced growth in the amount of energy derived from renewable energy sources. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Energy Account, Australia 2014-15 (cat. no. 4604.0) released in February 2017, reports that 337PJ of energy was supplied from renewable sources in 2014-15, up from 258PJ in 2008-09. While the proportion of energy supplied from renewable sources in Australia remains small (1.5% in 2014-15), there is considerable interest in renewable energy including interest in the amount of employment associated with renewable energy activities. This publication contains estimates of annual direct full time equivalent (FTE) employment in renewable energy activities. Estimates relate to the years 2009-10 to 2015-16 for Australia and its states and territories. This project was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
There are no comprehensive international statistical standards to guide the definition and measurement of employment in renewable energy activities and therefore the development of this publication has had to resolve a number of questions and challenges without the benefit of a guiding standard. The primary challenge is that renewable energy activities take place across a range of industries and there is no agreed definition of the renewable energy industry. In measuring employment by an industry, conventional practice is to first assign each business to an industry, based on the predominant activity of the business. Employees are then deemed to belong to the industry to which their employer has been assigned. Thus, the measurement of employment by industry is in concept relatively straightforward for standard industries such as mining, manufacturing or retail trade. On the other hand, measuring employment for non-standard industries, such as renewable energy, tourism or information and communication technologies (ICT), requires careful consideration and definitions of what is being measured and of the supporting methodologies.
An important role of this publication is to establish guiding principles for understanding employment in renewable energy. These guidelines have been established in large part by following general accounting principles embodied in relevant international statistical standards: the 2008 edition of the System of National Accounts (2008 SNA) and the 2012 Central Framework of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA-CF). Estimates are also consistent with Guidelines concerning a statistical definition of employment in the environmental sector produced by the International Labour Organisation. Appendix 1 of the Guidelines describes how relevant international statistical standards have been interpreted and used to develop a notion of employment in renewable energy activities.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Renewable Energy and Jobs (2013) publishes estimates of employment in renewable energy at global, regional and national levels. IRENA acknowledges the difficulties of drawing together disparate data on employment in renewable energy activities but does not offer a precise definition of renewable energy employment. Similarly, national estimates of employment in renewable energy jobs, both official and unofficial, typically provide only limited detail on those activities deemed to be 'renewable energy' activities. This publication systematically identifies, for each renewable energy type, the main activities considered to be in scope of employment in renewable energy activities. These activities typically range from manufacturing of equipment specific to renewable energy; installation of renewable energy infrastructure; and the operation and maintenance of this infrastructure. This publication includes employment in government agencies and non-profit institutions (NPIs) where this employment is predominantly motivated by the support of renewable energy.
Appropriate estimation methodologies are required to support estimates of employment in renewable energy activities. National statistical agencies do not typically collect information on renewable energy employment directly from survey respondents since the burden on survey respondents and on statistical agencies can be considerable, especially given the difficulties in identifying an appropriate list of employing businesses. These difficulties stem in large part from the fact that renewable energy is not a standard industry, but also from the great heterogeneity of businesses engaged in renewable energy activities. However, in recent years a range of techniques to develop estimates of employment in renewable energy activities has been used across a number of countries. The ABS has estimated employment in renewable energy activities by using two such techniques: firstly, by accessing information made publicly available on websites by renewable energy providers; and secondly by utilising employment factors. The latter technique uses information on how much energy is produced by renewable energy installations, numbers of installations and specific employment factors. Employment factors indicate the number of annual direct FTE jobs created per physical unit of choice. The technique is described more fully in the Explanatory Notes.
The estimates contained in this publication represent the outcome of development work requiring the use of assumptions and synthetic estimates for some data components and are considered experimental. In particular, estimates published in the first release of this publication contained several known omissions that were substantially addressed in the subsequent editions. For example, the second edition included employment related to the use of bagasse (a waste by-product of sugar cane milling) for electricity production. In this, the third edition, the methodology to determine hydro was revised to include more reliable data provided by hydroelectricity retailers. In identifying and delivering these changes the ABS sought and received valuable input from the statistical user community, in particular from industry experts and from relevant government agencies.
The ABS hopes that future editions of this publication will continue to benefit from the input of interested parties from industry, government, academia and the general community. As such, the ABS welcomes feedback on the estimates contained in this publication. Comments may be directed to <email@example.com> or in hardcopy to:
Director, Accounts Development, Environment and Agriculture Statistics Branch
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10
Belconnen, ACT, 2616.