2 June 2020


By Nicky Ison, Energy Transition Manager, WWF-Australia

Imagine an Australia where we understand that our vast sunburnt land is the key to our prosperity. Imagine in towns across Australia, factories are powered by solar and wind farms, electric vehicles glide quietly by as you walk along the street, households are covered in solar panels and so are the schools, hospitals, sports clubs and shops. 

In dedicated areas, we see mega-renewables projects alongside sheep, crops and Traditional land management. Aboriginal owned renewable energy has delivered “a pathway to self-determination and out of poverty” for Aboriginal communities.*

We’ve created new industries that provide long-term careers. Whether you work in mining, manufacturing, construction, education, law or finance you can work in a job supporting our thriving renewable energy industry. This renewable industry provides low bills and clean air, underpinning a revitalised manufacturing sector and has been the basis for new thriving export industries. Internationally, we’re celebrated for helping our neighbours lower their emissions, by providing clean steel, aluminium, cement and fertiliser to the world and affordable renewable fuels.

This vision is not far away, already we’re starting to see signs that it will become a reality:   

  • Tasmania: The government has set a world-leading 200% renewables target, positioning itself to become a renewable exporter. 
  • Western Australia: Our first mega-renewables project – the 15GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub – has just received environmental approval. 
  • South Australia: The government’s home battery program has led to the establishment of Australia’s first battery assembly plants
  • Queensland: In Gladstone, plans are afoot to create a renewable hydrogen hub.  
  • NSW: The NSW Government has just opened up a new Renewable Energy Zone for business interest, addressing the tricky transmission question.  
  • Communities: Around the country communities are embracing renewable energy, for example the Aboriginal community of Borroloola in the Northern Territory is developing plans for community owned solar to power their town and outstations. Aboriginal owned renewable energy has been “a pathway to self-determination and out of poverty” for Aboriginal communities.*
  • Companies: Big companies like Lion and Unilever are powering their operations with renewable electricity and have plans to get to net-zero emissions or even go carbon positive over the next decade. 

These are just a small number of examples of companies and governments around Australia recognising the huge economic opportunity of embracing renewable energy. Our abundant land, world-class renewable resources, skills, and proximity to Asia mean that in a low carbon world, few countries are better placed to prosper than Australia. 

However, this opportunity will not unlock itself. It will take concerted effort and supportive government policy. And there has never been a better time than now to get started.

As Australia and the world start to emerge from efforts to avert the worst of the COVID-19 health crisis, the scale of the economic impact is unprecedented. Not since the Great Depression have we seen have we seen such devastating economic impacts including mass unemployment.  

In this critical moment - we can choose to embrace the opportunities that will set-up Australia to prosper now and into the future or return to past priorities that have, over the last few years, seen Australia’s economy stagnate. 

At WWF we’ve chosen the first path, which is why we’re launching a campaign for a Renewable Recovery.   

We want to ensure that the jobs in renewables and other clean energy solutions are unlocked so that tens of thousands of Australians can enjoy stable employment over the next few years as we get our country and economy back on track.   

To get us started, we commissioned EY (Ernst & Young) to analyse the key economic trends Australia is facing and identify the suite of clean energy stimulus opportunities that exist.  

Their analysis found that an economic rebuild based on renewables comes with numerous benefits - it could reinvigorate local manufacturing, grow existing sectors and unlock new industries, increase exports, reskill our workforce, reduce carbon pollution and improve health. Moreover, at a time when more than 600,000 Australians have lost their jobs, the report identifies more than 100,000 jobs that could be unlocked through a clean stimulus package.

So how do we do it? WWF-Australia is calling for a $2 billion Renewable Recovery package covering five programs: 

Australia's renewable recovery
Australia's renewable recovery © WWF-Australia

We know we need both urgent economic stimulus and climate action. We have the opportunity and WWF has developed a suite of ideas around how we can start to capture them. Now we need to see governments step-up and make a Renewable Recovery a reality - for our present and our future. 

*The words of Fred Hooper, a Murriwarri Nation Elder at the 2017 Community Energy Congress.