CEC: 3.1 GW of solar in construction pipeline, policy uncertainty undermines long-term investment confidence

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The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has released new statistics on jobs and investment in Australia’s renewable energy sector, confirming the country’s unprecedented construction boom for clean energy projects.

According to the CEC, there is a total of 42 renewable energy projects across Australia in construction or due to start soon, having reached financial close.

Among the states, Queensland is far ahead with 18 projects, followed by South Australia with eight and Victoria and New South Wales seven each. Western Australia and Tasmania currently have one project each in the construction pipeline.

The accumulated renewable energy capacity stands at 6239 MW, including 3108 MW of solar projects and 3302 MW of wind farms, which is on top of 24 projects that have already been completed in 2018 totaling 1366 MW, worth $2.9 billion in investment.

Furthermore, the CEC finds that the projects in the 2018 construction pipeline are poised to deliver over $9.7 billion in investment, with a total of 5354 direct jobs created at the construction sites.

Investment confidence, employment trends and business challenges

A survey run by the CEC among 100 CEOs and senior executives across the renewable energy and storage industry showed strong confidence in short-term investments but concern about policy uncertainty for the future.

“The Clean Energy Outlook survey we are releasing shows cautious optimism from the executives who responded. The industry has been in a record growth phase, but those who have been around for a while have not forgotten the lean years in the middle of the decade caused by chronic political and policy uncertainty,” CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton said when launching the Australian Clean Energy Summit (ACES) at the ICC in Sydney on Tuesday.

Ranked out of 10, the group’s level of confidence to make investments over the next three years averaged 6.9, with most respondents saying they are confident in the short term, but wary of making longer term investment decisions against the background of policy uncertainty.

Almost three quarters (73%) of those surveyed were planning to hire more staff in the next 12 months, while only 4% expected their number of staff to drop during this period. But again, beyond 2020 there was less confidence in employment levels.

The two biggest common issues affecting businesses were policy uncertainty and regulatory change, with the proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) casting a shadow over a year of record activity and investment in energy storage and renewables.

In addition, responses indicated that network connections were an increasing bottleneck and companies are concerned by the rapid change to connection processes and requirements.