On 5 October RACE for 2030 released a report, Developing the future energy workforce. The report was a result of an opportunity assessment project led by the University of Technology Sydney, with the support of Monash University, and in collaboration with the Australian Power Institute, Climate-KIC Australia, the Energy Efficiency Council, EnergyLab, Startupbootcamp Australia and Ultima Capital Partners.

The project sought to describe a pathway to understanding of the size, attributes and training requirements for the workforce required to underpin the future energy sector. Ai Group was a member of the Industry Reference Group for the project.

The opportunity assessment project undertook was broken down into three key work packages:

  1. Market size, workforce and employment
  2. New skills development
  3. Innovation pathways

 

1. Market size, workforce and employment

A significant proportion of the research efforts in the report went towards developing a clear methodology to assess the current and future energy workforce. This work attempted to create an accurate baseline of the current workforce size and enable regular measurement of the energy workforce in order to develop accurate projections and measurements that assist evaluating the energy workforce now and into the future.

This is an important element of a bigger picture that will enable Australia to accurately measure the size, growth and skilling needs of the energy sector as it continues to undergo a significant transformation toward distributed energy systems underpinned by mixed sources of renewable and low carbon energy production.

  • Important Next Steps

The renewable energy sector in Australia is sizeable, estimates suggest $18.6 billion. Similarly, no reliable estimates exist for the energy efficiency sector.

Whilst limited to no work has been done to create a reliable baseline figure and subsequent projections for industry growth, estimates indicate that the clean energy sector (renewable energy and energy efficiency) could grow exponentially to $64-$110 billion by 2030.

Without the reliable baselines and methodology for projections, it is difficult to adequately prepare, monitor and harness the potential of this sector and enable an orderly transition.

 

2. New skills development

In order to roll out the new energy system, Australia’s education and training system will need to be updated in order to reflect the new skills and abilities required to power the new energy system. For example, Ai Group members have reported that new energy generation systems like Hydrogen, require specialist knowledge that is not directly transferrable from other energy generation methods.

In order to certify and enable workers to participate in the new and exciting energy system of the future, courses and education and training must reflect the new and varied activities of the workforce. The report was written as skill shortages hampered the Australian economy through our (continued) bumpy exit from lockdowns and entry into a renewed ‘Covid-normal’ marketplace.

  • Important Next Steps

Skill and labour shortages have been a costly limitation to growth across most industries in 2021. In order to ensure that the future energy market is able to realise its potential, it is important to increase the number of and enrolments in targeted education and training programs that deliver much needed skills for the future energy industry.

Moreover, the new technologies and modalities of energy production are more than iterative evolutions of older technology. This break from the past will be accompanied by industry-wide transformation that will require new skills and approaches. The roll out of new technology will be rapid and it is important that the education and training pathways strike the right balance between being sufficiently comprehensive and timely enough for the skills to enter the workforce as required.

 

3. Innovation pathways

The future energy industry has just begun, yet the magnitude of innovation and disruption is beginning to have economy wide implications. In order to participate in these developments, building strategic capacity, policy and collaborations can be pursued as an avenue to new innovation pathways.

By harnessing the disruptive changes in the energy industry, Australia can strengthen its capacity and skills in this field and be at the forefront of rapid development and take a lead global role in the future energy system.

  • Important Next Steps

The scale of the transformation toward the future energy system will require “new technology, business models, behaviours, practices and the way we use and pay for (often new) products and services.” In order to coordinate efforts to bring forth these developments, it is important that there is an effort to unify the many fragmented and varying efforts into a broader vision and framework.

As new entrepreneurial actors enter the sector and provide the new applications, models and behaviours that facilitate the transition, it is important that the policy settings are accommodative for these early actors. This is particularly important in light of the size of incumbents and the economic and environmental urgency for which the Australian energy sector must advance toward the future.

 

Summary

The RACE for 2030 project provides a timely insight into the significant change that the energy sector is embarking upon. The three work packages deliver an important overview of the current state of the sector. It also identifies the work and research needed to fast-track these developments and ensure that the policy settings are adjusted to accommodate the significant education, training and workforce development required. Moreover, the entrepreneurial nature of the innovation pathways will require policy reinforcement to ensure that truly innovative pursuits can thrive and begin to revamp the energy sector.

Brett Crossley

Brett is a Research & Policy Officer and contributes to the ongoing research and policy development projects in the Centre for Education and Training. Prior to joining the team, Brett had various roles in assisting clients with business processes, strategy research, market analysis and digital marketing. He is passionate about praxis and is motivated to ensure that research insights are operationalised in policy or business operations. Brett holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Environment and wrote his thesis about the influence of global private regulatory schemes on the Australian coffee market.