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Australia at risk of being left behind

For a long time, Australia's governments have clung to fossil fuels, which are stored in large quantities in the country's soil. Only since Anthony Albanese was elected Prime Minister just under a year ago has Australia made serious efforts to finally become active in the fight against climate change and to push ahead with the energy transition. But now the country is in danger of being left behind.

Australia started late to focus on the energy transition. Now the country is in danger of being left behind (Image: Pixabay)Australia started late to focus on the energy transition. Now the country is in danger of being left behind (Image: Pixabay)

Since taking office in May 2022, the Albanese government has significantly increased Australia's emissions reduction ambitions and committed to implementing a number of programs to promote the accelerated deployment of renewable energy. Since then, the expansion of wind, solar and storage projects has boomed in the largely sparsely populated country. The renewables industry has discovered Australia, and first tests for the construction of offshore wind farms are currently underway.

But now the Clean Energy Council (CEC) is warning that Australia could fall behind. The culprit is the ambitions of the U.S. Since President Joe Biden launched the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), fear has been running rampant in the rest of the world. Even in Europe, the massive subsidy program is causing queasy feelings.

The CEC is concerned that the Australian government's plans so far will not be enough to fulfill its potential as a renewable energy superpower. The feared clean energy arms race is in full swing and could damage the Australian economy.

"Australia has a prime opportunity to become a clean energy superpower, but the brightest minds and the biggest wallets are now looking to the US for their best opportunity," said Kane Thornton, executive director of the Clean Energy Council. It is immediately clear the US package dwarfs the level of support Australian governments provide for the clean energy transition."

He blames this primarily on the long period of inaction by previous governments, including former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is also known as a coal lover. "The consequences of inaction have the potential to damage Australian competitiveness across all industries for decades to come," Thornton said to descrice the scale of the current crisis.

The potential for renewables in Australia is gigantic (Image: Pixabay)

In May, Australia's federal government will decide on a new budget. In a submission, the CEC has now called on the Albanese government to significantly increase Australia's support for renewable energy so that the country does not fall behind.

At stake are not only millions of dollars in investment for renewable projects, but also jobs. Those that could be created if the industry continues to expand, but also the workers who are already in the country.

Ryan Carroll, head of human resources at global staffing firm Airswift, which specializes in the energy sector, says Airswift's own research has shown that most workers in the energy sector are willing to move overseas for a job, especially to countries with supportive policies. In this regard, Australia currently lags behind the U.S. and Europe, where longer-term career opportunities are better secured, he said. "The first thing that we really need to understand is there's a bit of an imbalance between the size of the opportunity… versus the availability of talent."

Australian Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, on the other hand, is hopeful to cooperate with the U.S., according to Australian medium ABC News. Australia, unlike many other countries, including Europe, could become a major supplier to the U.S. under the IRA, he said. "Certainly in my discussions with the United States, they've made it clear to me that they know they can't do it all alone," Bowen said. "Australia is now for the first time right in that race and catching up fast."

But the Clean Energy Council warns against sluggishness. Resting on one's laurels is not appropriate, the CEC warns, calling on the Australian federal government to take appropriate action in its May budget: "Vast economic packages that prioritise the build-out of renewable energy and storage are exactly what's needed to decarbonise the planet. Australia is at risk of being left behind without a significant commitment in the May Budget," he said. Carroll adds, "The government should learn from Joe Biden and use the May Budget to promote investment and entrepreneurship. This will signal to the top energy minds that Australia is the place for career progression and innovative projects."

Katrin Radtke
Australia, IRA, USA; Europe, energy transition, jobs, climate change, fight, Prime Minister, budget, renewable energy, potential, risk

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