Renewable energy could give Australia ‘job boom’

Using renewable energy sources instead of conventional coal-fired power stations could generate tens of thousands of construction jobs in Australia, according to calculations in a report released by a leading conservation group on Tuesday.

The report from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) gave an example with the nation’s biggest coal-fired power station, Eraring Power Station, in the state of New South Wales (NSW).

The power station, which produces 2,880 MW (megawatts) of electricity, is due to be decommissioned by 2025, with the ACF report noting “there is a fast-approaching opportunity to fill the electricity gap created by Eraring’s closure with zero-emissions energy – and create jobs.”

The ACF believed a variety of renewable energy sources would all produce far more employment opportunities than their coal or gas rivals, claiming that replicating Eraring’s output with household rooftop solar systems would, for instance, lead to 63,562 construction jobs.

The conservationists also said if solar farms were used instead of rooftop panels, it would create 14,415 jobs, while building wind farms to generate 2,880 MW of electricity would lead to 13,339 building jobs.

In contrast, construction of new coal-fired power stations would only create 8,576 jobs, while gas plants would create just 1,566 jobs, with the report concluding that a “gas-led recovery is not in the best interests of the many thousands of construction workers.”

“Supply chain jobs associated with the construction of gas plants ranks the lowest in every energy example,” the report noted.

ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said she was confident that adopting cleaner energy sources would generate a “jobs boom” in NSW and other traditionally coal-reliant states such as Victoria and Queensland.

“Renewable energy is the winning option for communities that have for decades relied on coal-fired power stations, which are now on their last legs,” O’Shanassy said, adding that “clinging to fossil fuels makes climate change worse, creates fewer jobs and leads to higher electricity bills.”

ACF spokesman Josh Meadows told Xinhua on Tuesday that the calculations were compiled by an energy analyst, Tristan Edis, who devised a way to work out how many construction jobs would be created by replacing aging coal-fired power stations with other, cleaner energy options.

Meadows said the figures were based on a wide array of data that included the recent construction of coal-fired power stations and gas power plants along with employment survey estimates from the renewable energy sector. ■

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