New economic modelling has tallied the likely jobs from replacing Australia’s ageing fleet of coal-fired power plants with wind, solar and batteries, new coal or gas-fired generation.

Powering Australian growth for decades, communities in Gladstone in Queensland, the Hunter Valley in NSW and Victoria’s Latrobe valley face a tough transition in a global economy intent on cutting carbon emissions.

A tool devised by energy market analyst Tristan Edis weighs up various types of electricity generation and jobs created while they are built as some regions look to transition workers into new jobs.

Replacing coal plants with rooftop solar plus batteries is the best way to create construction jobs, according to the report released on Tuesday by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Clinging to fossil fuels makes climate change worse, creates fewer jobs and leads to higher electricity bills,” foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“That is not what Australians want.”

The results are drawn from figures on jobs created to build coal plants at Tarong, Millmerran and Kogan Creek; Snowy Hydro’s estimates for the proposed Kurri Kurri gas power plant; and data calculated by the University of Technology Sydney on the renewable energy sector.

Solar farms are second and wind farms rank third.

Replacing old coal plants with new coal is fourth in construction jobs, and new gas ranks last.

Offshore wind projects, a future boon for Victoria and Tasmania in particular, are excluded from the model.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says closure without like-for-like replacement will increase power bills and risk blackouts.

But the International Energy Agency says there can be no new coal, oil or gas projects if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C.

“Government interference in the market is likely to dampen private investment and reliance on expensive gas will lock in climate pollution and push up electricity prices,” the report says.

The modelling found replacing Australia’s biggest coal-fired power station Eraring, slated to close in 2025, with renewables would create thousands more construction jobs than replacing it with a gas plant.

The tool can also be used to provide household comparisons.

For example, if Australia chose to power one million homes with new rooftop solar systems using panels and batteries, it would create more than 26,000 construction jobs.

But the equivalent power from new coal plants would create less than 4000 jobs and new gas just 652.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)