When it comes to jobs creation, a new tool shows renewable energy is the real winner for communities that are reliant on coal-fired power stations nearing their use-by dates.

Replacing the energy output of Australia’s biggest coal-fired power station, Eraring, which is scheduled to close in 2025, with renewables would create thousands more construction jobs than replacing it with gas.

The tool shows replacing Eraring’s 2880 megawatts of electricity with rooftop solar would create a whopping 63,562 jobs.

Building solar farms that generate the same amount of power would create 14,415 jobs, while building wind farms would create 13,339 jobs.

In contrast, construction jobs for new coal-fired power stations would create just 8,576 jobs, while gas plants that made that much power would mean just 1,566 jobs.  

“Renewable energy is the winning option for communities that have for decades relied on coal-fired power stations which are now on their last legs,” said Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

“In the Hunter Valley in NSW, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and Gladstone in Queensland, locals have for many years depended on jobs linked to coal mines and power stations. Replacing old coal fired generators with renewables will bring a jobs boom to those regions.

“The numbers show replacing the energy output of a coal-fired power station with rooftop solar plus batteries is the best way to create construction jobs, with solar farms second best and wind farms third.

“Replacing old coal with new coal comes a distant fourth in construction jobs, while new gas is the worst creator of energy construction jobs.

“The energy we use to power our lives is changing to renewables because coal and gas are damaging our climate. Renewables are cheaper, more reliable and create lots of jobs.

“Clinging to fossil fuels, makes climate change worse, creates fewer jobs and leads to higher electricity bills. That is not what Australians want.”

The tool can also be used to provide household comparisons. For example, if Australia chose to power one million homes with new rooftop solar systems, it would create 26,484 construction jobs. The next biggest jobs creator for this task would be solar farms, which would create 6,006 construction jobs. That much power generated by wind farms would create 5,558 jobs. Whereas the equivalent power from new coal would create just 3,573 jobs and new gas would create only 652 jobs. 

The energy construction jobs tool was devised by energy market analyst Tristan Edis to work out how many construction jobs would be created by replacing the energy output from aging coal-fired power stations with wind, solar, rooftop solar, new coal or gas.

The tool uses historical data on the number of jobs involved in constructing relatively recently built coal power stations at Tarong, Millmerran and Kogan Creek, Snowy Hydro’s estimates of job creation in constructing the  proposed Kurri Kurri gas power plant and survey estimates of employment in the renewable energy sector developed by the University of Technology Sydney. These provide estimates of the number of jobs created from constructing different power plants in megawatts of rated maximum capacity and relative to the amount of electricity generation they could be expected to deliver when operating in a baseload mode.

Read the 6-page brief

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