Renewable energy needs to inspire its workers with a future

Queensland unions say investment in renewables should occur but must also guarantee good, secure jobs if it is to provide long-lasting benefits to the state.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford today told a major summit that the renewable energy industry needed to convince Queenslanders that it was the way ahead for decent long-term employment, especially in regional communities.

QCU Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford says the renewable energy industry needs to create a narrative to inspire communities.

“We need a narrative that inspires belief in the future of renewable energy, and how communities across the state can benefit from well-paid secure jobs that pay superannuation, that provide decent working conditions, that provide a financial future for workers,” he said.

Renewable energy through rooftop solar sparked an employment boom during the installation phase in Queensland, with almost 5570 people employed full-time in the industry in 2011 but was around 2710 jobs in 2016, a drop of 51 per cent.

Mr Clifford said the Powering Queensland Summit heard earlier that by 2020 there could be more than 19,500 new jobs created in the renewable energy industry, but investors needed stability and certainty in policy for that to happen.

“To win more support for renewables, particularly in the regions, we need a narrative that creates a picture of what the jobs look like, that they are secure, permanent, jobs you can count on,” he said.

“A job working in the renewable industry needs to become part of popular culture. That’s important if we are to convince people that they can be part of the future that renewables promise,” he said.

“There needs to be a detailed plan to ensure a just transition so people aren’t left behind. Workers like miners won’t see themselves landing jobs in renewables, not from a skills point of view nor because of geography nor even culture.

“The transition plan needs to be fleshed out to create some confidence in how communities and workers can move toward a renewable future, and the cost of implementing that plan should be shared across the economy.”

He pointed out that Australians continued to believe in renewable energy, and expected government to play a major role.

“Recent Essential Research showed more than 74 percent of those polled support continuing government incentives for the development of renewable energy production,” he said.

“This investment needs to come with a plan around secure jobs with decent conditions.

“It also needs to come with a plan to transition workers in declining areas of the energy industry.”