Over 20,000 solar workers expected by 2018 despite Abbott’s efforts

panels going on straw house

Hot water panels for SQHQ, proudly installed by some of Australia’s 13,000 solar workers.

Jobs in the Australian solar industry is a topic that doesn’t excite the pro-fossil fuel press and shriekback radio all that much. Instead the headlines and radio waves over renewables are dominated by imagined consequences of the carbon tax and the repetition of outright lies about the consequences of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

Witness the recent pressure brought to bear as pro-fossil fuel lobbyists attempt to sway the stacked review board with outright mistruths on the benefit of the Renewable Energy Target. Truth has definitely been the first casualty as the war on renewables enters its next, more destructive phase.

But an honest, balanced (ha!) discussion should include debate over jobs growth in the energy sector. It should answer the questions: Where are the main drivers of employment? How are Australians benefitting? What are the future employment prospects?

The Australia Institute (TAI), in its report: Will we let the sun shine in?: Trends in the Australian Solar Industry shows jobs in the Australian solar industry has far outstripped those in the coal-fired sector. According to the findings, the increase in solar jobs has grown from 2008 when the industry only employed 1,800 people.

Jobs growth is but one of the many benefits of solar energy to consumers. Indeed TAI makes the following key points in favour of solar energy as they affect Australian households:

  • Jobs. The solar industry employs 13,000 people, according to the TAI report, which is “…significantly more than the number of people employed by coal fired power stations in Australia.” With another 8000 jobs due to be added by 2018, it’s clear the solar industry is one of the current main drivers of jobs growth in the Australian energy sector. This is expected to increase in the future — with or without government support.
  • Downward pressure on the price of electricity. As electricity prices skyrocket due to mismanagement by energy companies and overinvestment in infrastructure such as poles and wires, solar power is becoming more attractive to consumers. This is driving down the cost of household energy at a time when we, as consumers, are suffering horrendous price hikes. The recent decision by the federal government to align gas with world demand will also cause a major hike in domestic gas prices, making renewables such as solar even more attractive.
  • Innovation/Productivity. Not just productivity in the installation of solar panels (where the report states that Australian installers outperform their US counterparts) but also innovation in the number of solar energy-based financial models being offered to customers.

Interestingly  TAI make the point that the key threat to a solar energy future in Australia is the destructive tendency by the fossil fuel sector to secure regulatory privileges from the government (aka “black tape”).

“While falling costs and growing consumer support for solar PV will inevitably drive significant increases in market share a potential barrier to the short term growth of the solar PV industry in Australia is the ability of the existing energy industry to secure regulatory protections which impede, or increase the cost of, solar PV installation,” says the report.

“If Australia is to benefit from the employment, price, export and environmental benefits of solar PV it will be necessary to avoid the creation of such ‘black tape’.”

With renewable energy clearly the future for the country, jobs in the Australian solar industry must be at the centre of the debate. Not only does the solar industry have the potential to be the main player in jobs in the energy sector but also proven to be more nimble when it comes to responding to customer needs.

Finally ninety percent of Australians surveyed by The Australia Institute want more electricity from solar power. If that doesn’t clinch the argument, nothing will.


  1. Greg Angelo says

    When you come up with a method of cost effectively delivering electric power after the sun goes down give me a call. While solar energy may provide some alternative energy source during the day, it’s absolutely useless at night.I would have much more sympathywith green activists if they completely decoupled themselves from the electric supply grid. No amount of green rhetoric will cost effectively deliver the goods at night.

    • Finn Peacock says

      Hi Greg,

      Right now, for about $30,000 you can buy a solar and storage solution that will power an average Aussie home through the night. LCOE is about 30c per kWh. You are probably paying about 32c per kWh from the grid.

      In 2-3 years the cost of this system will easily be down to $20,000 and LCOE of solar + storage will be down to about 20c per kWh.

      In 2-3 years if you are still relying 100% on the grid, you will probably be paying closer to 40c a kWh for your electricity.

      It’s not green rhetoric it’s basic economics + the relentless march of technology. As a bonus it is almost CO2 free electricity. And that is what really seems to upset a lot of folks for some reason.



      • Colin Spencer says

        So true, Finn. As power stations, distributors and retailers of electricity suffer further reduced meter flow rates, they will be faced with two options: 1. put the price per kWh up, or 2. stack on higher service fees – both of which will multiply the number of consumers who opt for solar. We are all hanging out for economical modern and efficient battery storage systems to become available.

      • Onya Finn.

        Remarkable how some clever people just can’t manage a grasp of efficient power use.

        Or even simple arithmetic.

        Even today, the greatest (and least secure) cost is the battery-bank. However, an ‘average’
        quality bank can be bought anywhere for about $2 per amp/hr., and ~ appropriately-sized ~ will last well over five years…and hopefully nearer ten years.

        At today’s prices the cost of such a bank would cover the cost of the ‘Service-to-Property’ charge for about 4 years, so already the costs are comparable, and the difference between them will grow dramatically over the next few years as grid prices increase and battery-prices decrease along with the development of better products.

        When I put up my first solar-system second-hand panels cost me $13.80 per watt; now down to under $1 per watt. Other components have become similarly cheaper AND much better in quality and performance. eg. a 1500-watt square-wave inverter would set you back about a half-a-year’s average wages for a working man. (Remember them??! 😉 )

        Meanwhile, power-supply prices in Melbourne have increased about 15-fold…….and counting.

        Incidentally, after a recent, sudden price rise of 20% in one hit electricity prices down here are already ‘closer to 40 cents per kwh. ..38.76. SOMEone’s got to pay SPAusnet’s bill for starting the bushfires.
        ….and it won’t be SPAusnet. !

        ps. Greg:- most of the greenies I know have ALWAYS been ‘decoupled’ from the grid.

        …and most other ‘services’: like the recycled sewerage you, presumably, pay enormous sums to drink.

        But I’m no greenie; I only do it for the money! Origin gives me about $1600 (profit)a year for providing it with electricity. Obviously SOMEbody thinks solar-power is worthwhile. 😉

    • OK with there being so solar power at night. Future storage solutions will address that issue. However you are ignoring other sources of possible future energy. I would expect that in the future wind power, geothermal power and tidal power will come into play more. Wind power and geothermal power do work at night, and the tides change every six hours or so depending upon sun, earth and moon alignments. It may not be much on the domestic front compared to solar at the moment, but I expect that things will change in the future.

      • Rich Bowden says

        Good point ramjetski. It will be a mix of renewable that will form the backbone of our future energy. However while not ignoring these other alternatives, we do expect solar to be front and centre.

  2. Colin Spencer says

    More proof that the solar industry no longer needs to be propped up by taxpayer subsidies. RET and similar programs served their purpose to get renewable energy projects off the ground, but it is clear, going by the increasing employment in solar, that the industry is off and running and is able to stand on its own two feet. It is great value for the electricity consumer to generate his own, apart from the satisfaction,that is. Recently a news report stated that Australia is now over-supplied with electricity. I can only imagine the enormous amount of cheap coal fired power that is now not used at the Point Henry Geelong Alcoa aluminium smelting works. Gone! And with so many manufacturing businesses closing over the past five years and moving manufacturing to China, there must have been huge reductions in peak load. Add to all that, you now have over a million homes generating power from their solar systems, and energy efficiency has been a major thrust over the past ten years as well. So, energise your sales force, Solar People, get out there and sell systems. That, my friends, is Direct Action. You are helping to put coal fired power stations out of business. Go for it. It has nothing to do with Tony Abbott.

  3. ….until the bastard ~ or another of the same breed ~ starts taxing sunlight: or wind; or water!
    This country needs a revolution.

    …….for both financial and environmental reasons.

    • Colin Spencer says

      We had a revolution at the last election, Jason. People voted 90 out of every 100 seats to the Liberals and Nationals. That is what happens when people get angry about massive electricity costs. It is fine for those who can afford it to rebel by putting a heap of solar panels on their roof to reduce electricity costs, even though the power retailers just add fees to make up the difference. The current government met its commitment to get rid of the carbon tax. Trouble is, there are a lot of people who had their snouts in the trough wanting their share of taxpayers money to subsidise crazy environmental nonsense, most of which has no effect on climate change whatsoever. I guess we have to put up with the belief systems of those who wish to scare people into thinking that climate change is caused by people.

      • Given that I think there are about 144 seats in the lower house of parliament, I think your arithmetic may be a bit out. My main objection to the current solar situation in Queensland, is the way that Origin Energy is being allowed to rob PV input customers by only paying 6 cents per KwH while then selling it at about 30 cents per KwH. No problem with state government withdrawing its subsidy. I think that Origin should be paying about 15 cents per KwH at least, or leave the older style meters in place so that I get full value to any power that I feed into the grid.

        • Of course you’re right; but why do you expect them NOT to do it to you if you keep bending over?

          • Just waiting for technology to develop and then the bending over may stop. However getting the wife to change her energy use habits is proving to be a very hard job. She loves clothes dryers, I hate them with a passion. It can be 40 degrees out side, but she’ll still use a clothes dryer.

          • Finn Peacock says

            That’s a problem!

            But dryer technology using heat pumps has really come on recently.

            This thing is awesome:


            It uses just 0.5kWh to dry 3.5kg of clothes but…. it does cost over $2k!

          • A sobering reminder! pulling recalcitrant governments and bureaucratic bastardries into line is one thing. Recalcitrant wives lie in the next-higher order of difficulty.
            They do, however, have several weaknesses. (No. Apart from an undersized brain!)

            Can’t convince her to start a new trend:- nudity? (and get rid of the dryer while she’s trying it on! ~ nudity, not the dryer.)

            How about persuading her that Mrs. Jones down the street is using the latest, greatest, biggest nuclear-driven clothes-dryer available anywhere, and that people all over the world are marveling at the Sol model 1-1…. and what a pity it is she’s stuck with an old-fashioned electric model?

            ….or you could ~ as the master of the house ~ insist that henceforth YOU would do the laundry….on YOUR terms!…..(first of which is to sell the clothes-dryer washing-machine) and after two loads she’ll shake her head, prattle on to her girlfriends how hopeless men are at housework, and resume doing the laundry over your heated protests.

            And if all else fails you could just dump the offending articles out on the nature-strip for the hard-rubbish scavengers.The dryer and WM would disappear fairly quickly (depending on the number of wives living locally); she might take longer to move. 😉

      • Got myself out of order.
        I’m only a fan of solar power because that’s the best that’s available to me at the moment.
        It’s erratic production and storage problems are major hurdles to it’s universal use.

        There are far more efficient and consistent and uncomplicated renewable resources available: we have a HUGE continent at our unrestricted disposal, and why we’re not making use of water power (my favourite!) to provide all our needs with enough left over to make it worthwhile exporting it (or generate hydrogen for combustion uses) is beyond me. It’s a no-brainer. (which suggests a perfect fit for the ‘authorities’ involved!)

        However, I suspect that the self-interests of various ‘industries’ (including the ‘political’ industry along with the solar one, etc.) lies at the root of not only the subject of power-production, but also the myriad other considerations which hinge on that power.

        This once-lucky country (called that for good reason) is going down the gurgler, along with the rest of the world….which doesn’t have half the options we do.

        Thank gawd I’m not a 15-year-old. If I were I’d be out manning the barricades because that’s about the only hope I could see for my future.

  4. hehehe.

    For someone who imagines he sees beyond the ‘convention’ you might want to consider getting spectacles! –> eg.
    ” People voted 90 out of every 100 seats to the Liberals and Nationals.” ….is the best possible argument to outlaw this bullshit regime known as ‘democracy’. Mountains of demonstrable proofs make the point that voting begets bloody politicians ~ and that the labels they carry are irrelevant. They all come stained by the same sewer.

    Marx called democracy “the dictatorship of the proletariat”: and he was right! A dictatorship by any other name!
    ….elected by the (very) ‘average’ man (and woman!) in the street.
    Average:- Common denominator; ordinary; not outstanding; in the main….etc. ad nauseam.

    I for one don’t NEED to be told by a herd of sheeple with an IQ the same as their hatsize, including the lowest of the sleaze on the street, how to run my life!

    The acceptance the Divine Right of politicians elected by people you don’t know anything about, many of whom you probably wouldn’t let onto your front porch without sooling the dog on them, and NONE of which have the same world-view or life concerns as yourself (except for the views and concerns orchestrated by the same politicians/bureaucrats), is a downright absurdity!

    That such a system even exists is testament to the 100-point IQ, religious affiliation-effectation and lack of guts of the ‘average’ Australian voter.

    The revolution I mentioned is not a party-political one: it’s a revolution AGAINST all parties, the systems they produce, (having been handed a ‘mandate’!) and the Police State which inevitably results from that.

    Get some glasses!
    ….and look around you.

    • Colin Spencer says

      Guess who got out of bed on the wrong side this morning? Come on, mate. Do you know how many people are employed as public servants in this country? And they vary a lot, as the rest of us do. Whatever system of administration you like to live in, you just have to make the best of it. Marx and Lenin are long gone, and everything they created failed. Only capitalist democracies create opportunity, and China, having turned capitalist only a few years ago, probably has the system of government it needs to function effectively. Cheer up. Just try to enjoy your life, one day at a time.

      • Thanks for the concern Colin, but ~ though I mean every word I say ~ I’m old enough and ugly enough to be able to handle it.
        And I’m also within rifle-shot of being dead, so my concern isn’t for me; rather the destruction of what was an age ~ and country ~ of the greatest potential our word’s ever seen….and we’re letting it slide into history’s sewer while we’re haggling over shit.

        I was a migrant kid who came out here after WWII along with several million other people from all over the place, none of whom had anything, couldn’t speak the language, and most of whom were shattered by the war-machine various ‘governments’ had been playing war-games with for decades. And all of those governments had been elected by voters who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, avoid ‘playing the game’.

        And they mostly did pretty well. Though they had to work for it the opportunities were made available. They weren’t ‘provided’ or manipulated or shoehorned into place to fulfil an election ‘promise’; what politics did back then was to clear the way for people do do the best they could or wanted to. (All pre-social-security benefits or other handouts, too.)
        Men worked long hours, and built their own homes in their spare time with left-over cash; women raised their families and made use of their homes to add to the family’s wealth and the social cohesion of a mutually-supportive community.

        People worked, saved, innovated, sometimes went without more than the very basics, and helped each other along when the need arose. The red-tape was kept to a bare minimum, common-sense and a bit of leeway was applied by the few ‘authorities’ there were, and the good of the country came third after the welfare of one’s family and community. My father paid off his mortgage (for a quarter-acre) in three years and built his own house in ten…though we lived in the shell after six months.
        Even the ‘rich’ people didn’t have much more than anyone else and mostly put in a full day’s work.. But nobody went hungry, nobody slept under bushes in the park, and nobody died from neglect.
        Disillusioned kids under pressure didn’t murder other disillusioned kids for kicks, rob little old ladies or dope out from despair.

        To the day he died my old man voted for Bob Menzies (who’d died 15 years previously!) at every election he went to ~ state, federal, local, union, dogcatcher.
        ……because Menzies made available all the work he wanted and made sure a living wage was paid for the work done.
        The Lucky-Country’s luck was earned.

        ‘Work’ was actually (in terms of economic definition) productive, and (non-productive) ‘service industries’ amounted to less than 20% of the workforce.

        Now look. The lack of people wanting to actually ‘work’ is well-matched by the lack of actual ‘work’ available.
        That’s the sum total of sixty-five years of of Australian politics of which I personally am aware.

        And the kids of today have less to hope for and look forward to than did the migrants
        from war-torn Europe. all those years ago, even though the opportunities still exist ~ buried under immovable mountains of red tape.

        ….and all while grown adults haggle about handouts, bureaucratic finangling, political grafting, ‘jobs’ rather than ‘work’, and who’s up who for the rent.

        Nero, fiddling while Rome burnt, was FAR less culpable.

        But ‘have a good day’ anyway.

        • ps. And as has been pointed out in some tome of wisdom:- Democracy is based on the premise that two morons are smarter than one genius. (even my dog ~ he’s a poodle ~ knows better than that!).
          And realistically, anything that’s geared to cater to the lowest common denominator can’t ever, at best ~ by definition ~ achieve better than ‘average’.

          That’s the reason every law and bit of social-engineering is dedicated to constraining the ‘above-average’ to average parameters. If the ‘above-average’ were allowed to express itself separately the ‘average’ would fall further.

          Not unlike that communist/capitalist/et-al doctrine:- We keep you suppressed in order to save you from suppression!

          God help us all! says I.
          …and I’m a devout atheist!

        • Colin Spencer says

          Well, I was old enough to vote for Bob Menzies too, as a youngster. What we do for work nowadays is entirely different to what we did back in the 1950s. Automation and mass production have taken the bulk of the arduous jobs out of the mix, and education has benefited the subsequent generations enormously. Australian researchers contributed to advanced pv solar cell making back in the 1990s, and more Australian researchers have invented better lithium battery production methods and materials in the past couple of years.. Cars last five to then times longer than they did in the old days, and their cost relative to average wages has halved as well. Nothing stays the same, so sit back, watch your wide screen telly, and enjoy all of the wonderful things that were the realm of Buck Rogers comics when we were young. Whatever God is to you make the most of that too. The alternative is not all that pleasant. We have an exciting future ahead of us. But our descendants will have to be innovative and create their own life-style. It will be nothing like the life we had as kids.

          • Yeah…That’s what I’m bitching about.
            Cars cost half as much, but 43 times (in real $-terms) more to run; the problem is the options no longer exist. And people NEED cars to get anywhere from, eg, ‘dormitory suburbs’, whereas 50-odd years ago the suburbs evolved where the people were, providing real work.
            (And you’d need to convince me that cars last five-to-ten times longer than they did. most of the cars I owned over the years lived to see 35 or so years ~ and could be maintained pretty-well indefinitely by anyone with a few tools and half a brain.
            When machinery starts dictating to people how their lives must be run I pull the plug.
            (eg. the DIY electronic checkouts at supermarkets, which are doing kids out of yet another entree to the workforce….as has the demise of apprenticeships, etc. etc.etc.)

            But don’t get me wrong: I’m all for modern technology and science. However, life is no longer what you make it:- it’s become what you’re ALLOWED to make it: and that’s becoming more meaningless and barren every day. You have heard of ‘political correctness’ haven’t you? And I’d bet nobody under about 50yo has ever realised that the social mantras (including ‘democracy’ and party-politics and institutionalised patriotism) can be challenged.

            And certainly kids will grow into whatever environment they’re raised in. So do those other instinctively-social animals, dogs. But I wouldn’t wish that on a kid OR a dog, neither of which are allowed to be what nature intended and constructed them to be over several billion years. And it shows. Next thing you know they’ll be building hi-tech pre-programmed children in some automated factory, and acrylic dogs in another. (But check the fine-print; the warranty won’t be worth shit!)

            At your vintage, I’d presume you’re familiar with ‘Brave New World’.
            Obviously it hasn’t impressed you.

            Or how about this? http://www.ditext.com/ardrey/10.html
            Check out the last couple of pages in particular.

            Up the workers!! 😉

          • It warms my heart to see that I am not the only cranky old man out there who is prepared to say what he thinks.

          • Colin Spencer says

            The company I worked for gave me a company car when I was 19 years old. It was an EK Holden. In those days the working life of such a vehicle was only about 50,000 miles. Later, an EH I had did over 80,000 miles before they made me hand it in. Since the late 1980s automotive engineering moved a huge distance forward with fuel injection, and processor controlled engine operating processes. The first VN Commodores with a V6 engine were good for 500,000 kms of hard work at the hands of a sales rep. Running costs also decreased due to better fuel efficiency with overdrive transmissions standard, fuel air ratio control in real time, (50 cycles per second), and service intervals were extended from the old 1000 miles, to 15,000 kilometre intervals. Quality Assurance was adopted by all industries and the products we purchase reflected that massive change. I am now 71 years of age, and I still get a buzz out of the pace of technological advancement – these chaps in the solar industry are presently changing the way Australia gets and uses energy, and they will be making products available to us on a regular basis which will improve the way we live and work. No, I am not a cranky old Git. I am a proud contributor to technology. I invented a product in the 1990s that has a NATO catalogue number, as well as a thermodynamic concept that allows modern engines to run high compression and optimal ignition advance curves and still run on the crap regular petrol that we use in Australia. One of my competition engines in the European Touring Car Championship ran up to 16,000 RPM and we never broke a single motor in two years. Materials, durability, tolerances and clever heat transfer designs – modern concepts today, let alone in 1986 when I produced the products.

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