New light shed on job security in transition to green energy

Job security has become a hot-button issue as Queensland mulls a moratorium on new coal and gas projects, but new data shows workers would be largely unaffected by the stoppage.

Job security has become a hot-button issue as Queensland mulls a moratorium on new coal and gas projects, but new data shows workers would be largely unaffected by the stoppage.

The proposed six-month moratorium – proposed by the Greens – could see Queensland hit pause on the development of new coal, oil and gas projects in the state for six months.

The Federal Government’s initial estimates cautioned such a plan would cost 53,000 jobs and endanger $85 billion in investment, but new research by the Grattan Institute suggests the impact would only be one-tenth of that. 

Using government data, researchers Tony Wood and Alison Reeve – Grattan Institute’s program director and deputy program director for energy, respectively – found only two of the nine gas projects listed in Queensland had started producing.

Additionally, only six projects out of the 44 coal and nine gas projects listed in government data sets were listed as ‘committed’ projects – a designation indicating environmental and planning approvals have been given and a final investment decision made. 

None of these projects (or the nearly 4800 associated jobs) would be affected by the moratorium, leaving only the 45 projects (gas and coal) designated as either ‘announced’ or ‘feasible’ seemingly at risk.

Even here, however, the researchers found the impact to be relatively low.

“If all 45 of these projects went ahead, it would create 26,853 additional construction jobs in Queensland and 19,131 operational jobs – or about 46,000 jobs in total,” the team noted. 

“[But] most of these uncommitted projects will only ever exist on paper.

“Official data reveals 29 of the 45 uncommitted projects have been on the books for five years or more without moving to ‘committed’ status.” 

Only five of the projects designated as ‘feasible’ or ‘announced’ in 2017 have moved to ‘committed’ or ‘operating’, the researchers noted, with just half of the proposed gas projects and 6% of coal projects on the cards five years ago progressing.

Assuming a similar rate of progress over the next five years, only one in every 16 coal projects and half the proposed gas developments would go ahead – meaning 4406 jobs would be realistically jeopardised by the moratorium.

Energy transition fuels new jobs

Separate research by global consulting firm EY found the green energy transition presents governments with “a ‘no regrets’ path to economic recovery” – reducing emissions, growing economies and creating jobs. 

EY looked at the economic potential of a green energy-led recovery across 47 countries, and found Australia had among the greatest potential for new energy-related jobs per million people, as demonstrated by this graph:

Additionally, EY global energy and resources industry market leader Serge Colle said the kinds of jobs created would include both skilled and unskilled roles for workers.

“It is sometimes argued that green energy jobs are focused on highly educated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, but this is not borne out by analysis,” he said.

“In reality, lower-skilled jobs are created through construction, installation and manufacturing, while there are new skilled employment opportunities in, for example, engineering and project management.”

Mr Colle said as many as 10 million jobs could be created among the 47 countries included in the study, just by focusing on the visible pipeline of projects ready to commence in the near-term.


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