The 2022-23 Federal Budget has missed the mark when it comes to cementing Australia’s place as a global clean energy superpower.
Over the next decade, infrastructure spending that supports Australia’s rapid transition to renewable energy, which is in progress right now, is critical. “Significant investment is required in the National Electricity Market and network to make this transition happen safely and smoothly,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton.
“A 21st-century economy needs a modern electricity network that supports reliability, security and low-emissions technologies and delivers low-cost energy to consumers.
“Tonight’s Federal Budget fails to look to the medium-to-long term future through an all-important lens of reducing the emissions that are having a devastating impact on the climate, the environment and on the lives of everyday Australians.
“The lack of transmission investment is now one of the most critical challenges facing Australia’s energy industry. Instead, yet another Federal Budget has prioritised the fossil fuel industry when Australia’s bottom line should be focused providing a better future for communities through clean, low-cost renewable energy and storage.”
It is also telling that spending through both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which were set up to increase investment in renewable energy and to support the Federal Government in its commitments to reduce carbon emissions, will decline over the next four years.
The use of microgrids and off-grid systems for rural and fringe-of-grid communities can improve safety and reliability while reducing energy costs and the Clean Energy Council welcomes tonight’s budget allocation.
A cut to fuel excise is a mere temporary measure, with no guarantees of the costs being passed on to consumers. Instead, the Clean Energy Council says that greater focus on the electrification of transport would critically release our shackles from fluctuating fuel costs as a result of events overseas.
“The transport sector accounts for nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s emissions. The Federal Government’s own target is for 30 per cent of all new car sales being electric by 2030, and tonight’s Federal Budget doesn’t get us any closer to that target,” said Thornton.
The Federal Government’s three-month extension of the apprentice wage subsidy ($365 million) will be a small step towards alleviating the skills crisis the clean energy industry is currently facing. More significant is the proposed Australian Apprenticeship Incentive System that is aimed at supporting both employers and employees in priority occupations such as electricians. There is also $550 million in tax relief that electricians can use to upskill into solar rooftop and battery system design and installation, for example.
However, support is lacking for engineers and specialist trades to support new infrastructure. The construction of key transmission infrastructure over the next five to 10 years relies on those skills, without which there can be no growth, let alone energy transition.
“A long-term vision for Australia’s workforce requires targeted funding in the renewable energy labour market that supports a growing and diverse regional workforce.
“Supporting career pathways for the renewable energy workforce will be critical as our country undertakes what the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) calls a “once-in-a-century transformation in the way society considers and consumes energy,” continued Thornton.
“That means resourcing and funding proper planning for communities to offer pathways to help transition many coal workers into careers in clean energy noting that AEMO assumes a 79 per cent share for renewables by 2030 in its latest Draft Integrated System Plan. These urgent needs should have been taken into account in this Federal Budget.”
Tonight’s budget allocation towards Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and in the trades, supports a more inclusive clean energy workforce. However, greater access to childcare has been shown to be the most effective way to assist women to be active in the workforce – without which the wider economy suffers.