Australia lacks skills for energy bonanza

·2-min read

Australia's energy future will be limited without a much larger and well-prepared workforce, experts warn.

Growth in large-scale wind, solar and battery farms, and smaller systems for homes and businesses, is expected over the next two decades, potentially offering trained Australians secure and highly paid work.

With the right policy levers, three-quarters of clean energy jobs could be in regional areas by 2035, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Clean Energy Council.

But there are already shortages, particularly for engineers and electricians.

"This is the key decade, not only for Australia's emissions reduction efforts but also in developing the workforce to drive this economy-wide change," the industry body's chief executive Kane Thornton said ahead of the jobs and skills summit.

He is on the hand-picked list of speakers for the Albanese government's summit that begins on Thursday.

The "slow and unwieldy" vocational education and training system has been a brake on the development of relevant and meaningful qualifications for tradies in renewable energy, the Council's report found.

Nor are universities adapting quickly enough to provide the talent Australia needs.

Under current plans for the national grid, the ninefold increase in large-scale renewables and fivefold increase in small-scale generation needed by 2050 will require tens of thousands of new workers.

As systems age, there will also be demand for technicians with specific skills to support recycling and reuse of batteries, panels and other system components.

And for a federal government focused on workforce diversity, the energy sector has room for improvement.

Women (39 per cent) in the clean energy sector may be ahead of oil and gas (23 per cent) and coal (16 per cent), but they are over-represented in administration (over 60 per cent) and rare at board level (19 per cent).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up just 0.8 per cent of the sector's workforce.

The report covers planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of renewable energy generation.

Training for transmission, manufacturing components, and new industrial processes for making hydrogen and green steel, will also be needed if Australia is to become a clean energy superpower.

"This report shows that investing in a secure, skilled and well-trained workforce is the first step towards powering Australia's future," Michael Wright, head of the Electrical Trades Union said.

"It's the absolute foundation of the pathway to meet climate targets and reduce emissions."

HOW TO SKILL UP FOR THE ENERGY TRANSITION:

*Anticipate the needs of a clean energy workforce in energy market planning

*Fund higher education teaching and research to serve clean energy industries

*Position vocational educational and training to respond to industry needs

*Raise the profile of clean energy as a career opportunity for all Australians

*Establish a Transition Authority to work with communities and map career pathways

*Attract international workers as a global centre of clean energy expertise.