May 04 2018

Signs of growth: CPI and the renewable job market

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the Consumer Price Index (CPI) results for the March 2018 quarter, and a few days later, reported on renewable energy employment for 2016-17. We take a look at both reports and what the ABS found.

Consumer Price Index

According to the latest figures from the ABS, the CPI rose 0.4 per cent in the three months to March 2018, leaving year-on-year CPI at 1.9 per cent for a second consecutive quarter (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Source: ABS, CPI March Quarter Report 6401.0

Figure 2

Source: ABS, CPI March Quarter Report 6401.0

Across all groups, CPI rose in seven of the eight capital cities. Melbourne recorded the largest rise (0.9 per cent) and Darwin had no movement. The Household Group – which includes electricity, and gas and other fuels - was the most significant positive contributor to the quarter’s CPI (Figure 2). The ABS notes that the most significant rises in the March quarter include gas and other household fuels (6.0 per cent)[i].

Energy price movement

The Household Group’s CPI increased by 0.7 per cent in the March quarter, with rises in five of the eight capital cities.

Over the last 12 months, the group has increased by 3.3 per cent. The report notes that the main contributor in the March quarter was gas and other household fuels (+6.0 per cent) and electricity (+1.9 per cent), due to increases in wholesale prices.

While the ABS measures the quarterly price movements by metropolitan households across the nation, it does not measure the difference of retail prices between cities. Figure 3 and 4 show the quarter, annual, and five-year change percentage across each capital city for electricity and gas and other household fuels, respectively.

Figure 3: Electricity percentage growth, per city

 Source: ABS, CPI March Quarter Report 6401.0, Table 9

Figure 4: Gas and other fuels percentage growth, per city

 Source: ABS, CPI March Quarter Report 6401.0, Table 9

For the March quarter energy price movement varies across the cities: Sydney's CPI rose by 0.3 per cent across all groups, the ABS states this was partially offset by a 2.2 per cent decrease in electricity.

The main contributor to Melbourne’s total CPI was electricity (+13.1 per cent) and gas and other household fuels (+13 per cent). And while Brisbane CPI rose 0.1 per cent, it was partially offset by a 4.76 per cent fall in electricity. The ABS notes that this fall is due to discounting by energy retailers.

Renewable jobs

While the proportion of energy supplied from renewable sources in Australia remains relatively small (1.7 per cent in 2015-16), last week the ABS announced that renewable energy production jobs grew by 33 per cent (+3680) in 2016-17 - to reach a total of 14,820 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions nationally.

This is the highest level of FTE employment in renewable energy since 2012-13, but still below the peak that was reached in 2011-12 (19,210). And while it’s still a relatively small employment sector, the ABS notes that there is “considerable interest in renewable energy activities and associated employment.”[ii]

The increase in FTE jobs has been primarily driven by construction activity for large scale solar PV systems (+1240) and wind farms (+1370) in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, which represent 78 per cent of all renewable energy employment in Australia. 

Figure 5: Direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities by state/territory

Source: ABS, Employment in Renewable Energy 4631.0

Queensland had the largest increase in renewable energy employment gaining an additional 1220 positions, to make a total of 3940 FTE jobs in 2016-17. This reflects the construction of 17 large scale solar farms across the state, and there are claims of the potential for another 40-plus farms[iii].

South Australia experienced a 110 per cent increase – from 710 jobs in 2015-16, to 1490 FTE positions in 2016-17. New South Wales also gained 1160 extra jobs to make a total of 3910 FTE positions in the state. The rises in both states predominately come from construction work on large scale wind generation.

Other states remained relatively steady, compared to the previous year (Figure 5).

Figure 6: Direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities by renewable energy type, Australia

Source: ABS, Employment in Renewable Energy 4631.0

While the number of roof top solar jobs has declined significantly since 2012, it still remains the largest FTE employer in the renewable energy sector making up 43 per cent in 2016-17 (Figure 6). Across the nation, roof top solar, which includes solar hot water systems, added 860 FTE positions in 2016-17.

The fluctuation of FTE roof top solar jobs is driven by a range of mechanisms, like government policies, taxes, and subsidies. Feed-in tariffs (FiT) have also influenced FTE jobs in the roof top solar industry due to the varying FiT rates over the time frame. From 2011-12 there were reductions in FiT prices, which correspond with the fall in new roof top solar installations. This suggests that the number of FTE jobs in the renewable energy sector are mainly short-term roles.

Employment in wind remained relatively steady from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging around 1366 FTE positions. In 2015-16 wind FTE jobs dropped by 37 per cent, but 2016-17 saw a swing back and wind industry jobs peaked at 2140 positions nationally. This is representative of the wind farms currently under construction, shown in Figure 7.

Hydro power stations have remained consistent employers since 2009-10. The amount of FTE jobs in the hydro power sector increased marginally from 1840 in 2015-16, to 2010 positions in 2016-17.

Figure 7: Large-scale renewable energy projects
Projects completed in 2017
Technology
State
Developer
Project
MW
Jobs

Wind

VIC

RES, GE and Downer

Ararat Wind Farm

240

165

Hybrid

TAS

Hydro Tasmania

Flinders Island

1.1

 

Wind & Solar

SA

EDL

Coober Pedy

5

 

           
Projects under construction
Technology
State
Developer
Project
MW
Jobs

Wind

SA

Neoen and Megawatt Capital

Hornsdale Stage 2

100

150

Wind

SA

Neoen and Megawatt Capital

Hornsdale Stage 3

109

 

Wind

NSW

Goldwind

White Rock - Stage 1

175

300

Wind

QLD

RATCH

Mt Emerald

180

150

Wind

VIC

Windlab

Kiata

30

70

Solar

WA

APA

Emu Downs

20

100

Solar

QLD

Sunshine Coast Council

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm

15

60

Solar

NSW

New Gullen Range Wind Farm

Gullen Range Solar Farm

10

70

Solar

QLD

Conergy – Lakeland Solar & Storage P/L

Lakeland Solar & Storage Project

10.8

60

Solar

QLD

FRV

Clare Solar Farm

100

200

Solar

QLD

Genex

Kidston Solar

50

100

Bagasse

QLD

MSF Sugar

Tableland Sugar Mill

24

80

Wind

VIC

Pacific Hydro

Yaloak South

29

 

Wind

VIC

Acciona

Mt Gellibrand - Stage 1

66

100

Wind

NSW

Partners Group and CWP Renewables

Sapphire

270

200

Solar

QLD

Canadian Solar & Scouller Energy

Normanton Solar Farm

5

20

Solar

QLD

Canadian Solar

Longreach Solar Farm

17.4

30

Solar

QLD

Canadian Solar

Oakey 1 Solar Farm

30

50

Solar

QLD

Sun Metals

Sun Metals Solar Farm

125

210

Solar

QLD

RATCH

Collinsville

42

120

Wind

NSW

Global Power Generation Australia

Crookwell 2

91

80

Wind

SA

Engie

Willogoleche Wind Farm

119

 

Solar

QLD

Edify Energy

Whitsunday Solar Farm

57.5

116

Solar

QLD

 

Hamilton Solar Farm

57.5

 

Solar

QLD

ESCO Pacific/Palisade

Ross River

148

150

Wind

VIC

Tilt Renewables

Salt Creek Wind Farm

54

100

Solar

NSW

Neoen

Dubbo

29

 

Wind & Solar

QLD

Windlab

Kennedy Energy Park

58

100

Wind

NSW

PARF

Silverton

200

150

Solar

SA

Enel Green Power / Dutch Infrastructure Fund

Bungala Solar Project

220

350

Solar

NSW

ARENA

White Rock Solar Farm

20

75

Solar

QLD

Lighthouse Solar

Hughenden Solar Farm

22.5

 

Solar

SA

SSE Australia

Whyalla Solar Farm

6

 

           
Projects with financial commitment – to start construction in 2017
Technology
State
Developer
Project
MW
Jobs

Wind

VIC

Goldwind

Stockyard Hill Wind Farm

530

30

Solar

QLD

FRV

Lilyvale

100

200

Solar

SA

Snowy Hydro

Tailem Bend

100

200

Solar

NSW

Neoen

Griffith, Parkes

102

250

Solar

VIC

Overland Sun Farming

Yatpool, Iraak, Wemen

333

200

Solar

NSW

First Solar

Manildra Solar Farm

42.4

 

Solar

SA

Lyon Group

Riverland Solar Farm

330

270

Wind

NSW

Infigen Energy

Bodangora Wind Farm

113.2

120

Solar

QLD

RES

Emerald Solar Park

68

150

Solar

QLD

Canadian Solar

Oakey 2 SF

70

100

Wind

SA

Nexif Energy

Lincoln Gap Wind Farm - Stage 1

126

110

Solar

QLD

APA Group

Darling Downs

106.8

200

Wind

QLD

AGL/PARF

Coopers Gap Wind Farm

453

200

Source: Clean Energy Council


 

[i] Consumer Price Index Media Release, Australia, March 2018

[ii] ABS media release, Renewable energy jobs up by a third, April 2018 

[iii] Sunshine Coast Daily, Solar Farm Boom, March 2018

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