4631.0 - Employment in Renewable Energy Activities, Australia, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
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MAIN FINDINGS


This publication presents estimates of direct full-time equivalent employment in renewable energy activities in Australia, for the years 2009-10 to 2015-16. These estimates should be regarded as experimental as improvements continue to be made to the estimation methods and as new data sources continue to be identified.

OVERVIEW

Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia was estimated at 11,150 in 2015-16. As Figure 1 shows, this is a decrease of 2,150 FTE (-16%) from the previous year (2014-15) and a decline of 8,070 FTE (-42%) from a peak of 19,220 in 2011-12.

Figure 1 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 1 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2015-16

This decline in FTE employment in renewable energy activities has mainly occurred due to a decrease in the number of roof-top solar photovoltaic (PV) systems being installed on the roofs of homes (over a 60% decrease between 2011-12 and 2015-16) (Clean Energy Regulator, 2016).

This decline in installations has led to a similar sized decrease in FTE employment in the installation of roof-top solar PV (which includes solar hot water systems) over the same period (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Annual direct FTE employment in Roof-top Solar activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2015-16 (a)
Graph Image for Figure 2 - Annual direct FTE employment in Roof-top Solar activities in Australia, 2009-10 to 2015-16 (a)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Solar Hot Water systems

Source(s): Employment in Renewable Energy Activities - Australia


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 relevant key government policies operating during the period 2009-10 to 2015-16.


TYPE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

Among renewable energy activities, employment in roof-top solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (which also includes solar hot water systems) made up the largest component of total direct annual FTE employment in 2015-16 with 5,570 or 50% of all such employment. Though employment in this category fluctuated during the period from 2009-10 to 2015-16, 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 74% of total direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by type of renewable energy 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 3 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by type of renewable energy 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2015-16

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Solar Hot Water systems

Source(s): Employment in Renewable Energy Activities - Australia


Employment in large scale solar and 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 infrastructure and is relatively volatile. Total annual direct FTE employment in wind power has been varied, with a high in 2013-14 of 1,720 or 12% of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities, to a low of 620 in 2015-16 (6% of the total).

FTE employment in hydropower and government and non-profit institutions (NPIs) both increased between 2009-10 to 2012-13 but have remained fairly stable since then. FTE employment in biomass remained fairly stable throughout the entire reporting period.

STATES AND TERRITORIES

As Figure 4 shows, in 2015-16 NSW recorded the highest level of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities of any state or territory in Australia, with 2,920 FTE employees or 26% of total employment in renewable energy activities in Australia. Queensland recorded 2,710 or 24% of total employment in renewable energy activities, Victoria 1,900 (17%), Tasmania 1,190 (11%), Western Australia 1,060 (10%) and South Australia 710 (6%). The ACT recorded 550 FTE (5%) while the NT recorded 110 (1%).

Figure 4 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by state and territory 2009-10, 2012-13 and 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 4 - Proportion of annual direct FTE employment by state and territory 2009-10, 2012-13 and 2015-16

Figure 4 also shows how the proportion of annual direct FTE employment by state has changed over time. For example, in 2012-13 Queensland recorded the highest level of annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities among Australia's states and territories, with 5,010 or (30%) of all FTE employment in renewable energy activities.

Since the peak in annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in 2011-12, most states have recorded an overall decline, particularly those states where employment in the installation of roof-top solar PV (including solar hot water systems) has been dominant. The largest fall in FTE employment occurred in Queensland, where employment fell from 5,570 to 2,710 between 2011-12 and 2015-16, a decline of 2,860 (51%). For the same period, South Australia experienced a fall of 1,650 (or 70%; from 2,360 to 710), Victoria a fall of 1,530 (or 45%; from 3,430 to 1,900), Western Australia a fall of 1,170 (or 52%; from 2,230 to 1,060) (see Figure 5.1).

Although NSW also experienced an overall fall in FTE employment between 2011-12 and 2015-16 (23%; from 3,790 to 2,920), the state did have an increase in jobs in 2014-15. This increase was due to the construction of several large scale solar farms (see Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities - States, 2009-10 to 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 5.1 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities - States, 2009-10 to 2015-16

For the same period, FTE employment in renewable energy activities in the ACT and Tasmania remained fairly stable, while the Northern Territory experienced a growth of 40 FTE jobs (57%; from 70 to 110). This growth in the Northern Territory was due to an increase in FTE employment in the solar industry (see Figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities - State and Territories, 2009-10 to 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 5.2 - Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities - State and Territories, 2009-10 to 2015-16

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, the major contributor to employment was solar power (which includes roof-top solar PV, solar hot water systems and large scale solar). As shown in Figure 6, Western Australia had the highest proportion of direct FTE employment related to solar power (93%). In NT (82%), Victoria (71%), SA (66%), Qld (54%) and NSW (53%), solar power also made up the majority of direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in 2015-16.

Figure 6 - Proportion of FTE employment in solar power activities for each state and territory, 2015-16
Graph Image for Figure 6 - Proportion of FTE employment in solar power activities for each state and territory, 2015-16

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 2015-16 at which point it comprised 42% 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.

The main contributor to FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Tasmania is hydropower. In 2015-16, hydropower made up 87% of all FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Tasmania. In the ACT, the main contributor to FTE employment in renewable energy activities is government agencies and NPIs. In 2015-16, FTE employment in government agencies and NPIs made up 91% of all FTE employment in renewable energy activities in the ACT. Over the reporting period, FTE employment in hydro and government and NPIs has been more stable than other renewable energy activities, such as solar and wind. Therefore, FTE employment in both the ACT and Tasmania has remained fairly stable over the same time period (see Figure 5.2).


PENETRATION OF ROOF-TOP SOLAR PV ACROSS AUSTRALIA

Levels of employment involved in the installation of roof-top solar PV systems are influenced by a number of government policies, including taxes, subsidies, pricing policies and renewable energy targets. The Explanatory Notes to this publication provide additional detail on the key influences affecting FTE employment in roof-top solar over time.

This section provides a broad picture of the penetration of roof-top solar PV systems into Australia's stock of private dwellings. The Clean Energy Regulator reports on the number of roof-top solar PV systems installed in Australia as at the end of Dec 2016 (in excess of 1.6 million). The ABS Census of Population and Housing provides numbers of dwellings in Australia, by state and territory and by type of dwelling structure.

Table 1 shows that across Australia, 21% of suitable private dwellings are equipped with a roof-top solar PV system. A suitable dwelling is defined as a separate house or as semi-detached row or terrace house. This penetration of roof-top solar PV varies markedly across states and territories, for example, in Queensland 32% and South Australia 31% of suitable private dwellings host a roof-top solar PV system, while just 13% of suitable private dwellings in Tasmania and 11% in the Northern Territory do so.

Table 1: Percentage of suitable dwellings with roof-top solar PV (a)

December 2016 (%)

New South Wales
16
Victoria
15
Queensland
32
South Australia
31
Western Australia
25
Tasmania
13
Northern Territory
11
Australian Capital Territory
14

Australia
21

(a) A suitable dwelling is defined as a separate house or as semi-detached row or terrace house.

Not all types of dwelling structures are suitable for hosting roof-top solar PV systems, for example, caravans, tents and many units and apartments. Also, even though some detached houses, terrace houses and townhouses have the structural capacity to host a roof-top solar PV system it may not be practical to do so, due to issues such as a poor solar aspect. It is not possible to exclude such dwellings as they cannot be separately identified.

The average size of an installed roof-top solar PV system in Australia is currently just under 4 kW in capacity. In recent years, driven largely by falling prices for solar PV panels, the average size of systems has increased and are often over 5 kW in capacity (Clean Energy Council, 2016).


ELECTRICITY: ENERGY PRODUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT

Table 2 compares energy production and employment for the electricity supply industry and for selected types of renewable electricity production.

Table 2: Electricity generation and employment, by type of electricity production, 2009-10 to 2014-15

2009-10
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15

Electricity Production (PJ)

Total electricity production (PJ)(a)
908
896
892
888
888
901
Selected renewables
Solar (a)
11
15
21
27
31
36
Wind (a)
18
21
22
29
37
41
Hydro (a)
49
61
51
66
66
48
Bagasse (b)
4
4
4
4
5
5
Renewable Energy Total
82
101
98
126
139
130

Employment (000) (c)

Total employment in industry (d)
60.1
66.0
65.1
69.4
63.6
64.8
Selected renewables (c)
Solar
7.0
12.0
14.4
11.2
8.3
7.7
Wind
1.1
1.6
1.1
1.4
1.7
1.2
Hydro
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.7
1.8
1.8
Bagasse
0.9
0.9
0.9
0.9
1.1
1.1
Selected Renewables Total
10.4
15.9
17.8
15.2
12.9
11.8

(a) Data are sourced from Energy Account, Australia, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4604.0).
(b) Data are sourced from Clean Energy Regulator, National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS).
(c) Electricity production from Energy Account, Australia (cat. no. 4604.0) is available for years up to and including 2014-15. Therefore, employment data in this table applies a matching time series.
(d) Data are sourced from Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003).

Table 2 shows that total production of electricity within the Australian economy fell each year between 2009-10 and 2013-14, from 908 PJs to 888 PJs but has increased again in 2014-15 to 901 PJs (Energy Account, Australia (cat. no. 4604.0)). In the same time period, total employment in the electricity supply industry (including both renewable and non-renewable electricity supply) rose from 60,100 in 2009-10 to a peak of 69,400 in 2012-13, before falling to 64,800 in 2014-15 (Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003)). Therefore, there has been an overall increase in jobs between 2009-10 and 2014-15 in the electricity supply industry even though electricity supply was decreasing for most of that time period.

In comparison, electricity generated from selected renewable sources (solar, wind, hydropower and bagasse) has risen by 59% between 2009-10 and 2014-15 (Energy Account, Australia (cat. no. 4604.0)). In the same time period, employment related to electricity production for selected renewables has risen from 10,400 in 2009-10 to a peak of 17,800 in 2011-12, before falling to 11,700 in 2014-15. A contributing factor to the rise in renewable energy employment between 2009-10 and 2011-12 is most likely due to the employment of construction workers to build renewable energy facilities. However, once construction is completed and only ongoing maintenance is required, employment falls quite significantly, even though generation of renewable electricity remains higher.

Comparisons between total employment in the Electricity Supply industry from Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003) and employment in renewable energy activities reported in this publication must be compared with caution. This is because 'Total electricity supply' in Labour Force, Australia is defined according to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZIC) 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.