Clean Energy Will Power A Jobs Revolution

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Speeches

Tuesday, 20th April 2021

Clean Energy Will Power A Jobs Revolution

For too long in this country, debate about clean energy has been bogged down by negative, partisan politics.

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Today I want to talk about jobs.
 
Secure, well-paid jobs for today’s Australians and for future generations.
 
For too long in this country, debate about clean energy has been bogged down by negative, partisan politics.
 
For more than 20 years the Liberals and Nationals have rejected scientific advice and chosen to portray the rise of clean energy as a threat to jobs and exports.
 
At their worst, they have deliberately misled Australians, pretending that we can ignore change, even as it happens before our eyes.
 
But it is time to look at the other side of the coin – the huge potential for clean energy to create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid jobs right across this country.
 
I am not just talking about jobs for scientists or engineers developing new clean energy technologies.
 
I’m not just talking about jobs for people mining lithium, copper and nickel or those who will transform those materials into batteries.
 
I’m talking about a revolution in jobs growth right across the Australian economy based on one inescapable fact - renewable energy is not only clean, but cheap. And getting cheaper.
 
And unlike our traditional energy system, it can also be more easily decentralised and distributed, opening up more potential in places that have historically been hamstrung by lack of access to the cheapest energy.
 
Low-cost renewable electricity looms as the key to unlocking jobs growth for decades to come.
 
Falling power bills will unshackle businesses, allowing them to expand and create jobs.
 
With the right policy settings, falling power prices will act as a catalyst for a revival of the Australian manufacturing industry.
 
Cheaper power. Lower carbon emissions. And jobs for Australians.
 
Long-term, well-paid jobs. Jobs you can raise a family on. Jobs that help you buy a home. Jobs that mean you can save for retirement.
 
Complex economic change always presents challenges for governments.
 
But good governments shape change to serve the national interest.
 
When it comes to renewables, a Labor Government under my leadership won’t just meet the challenges of the shift to renewables.
 
We will also extract every job-creating opportunity that comes with this change to provide security and prosperity for today’s Australians and for the generations that will follow us.

Not long after I was honoured to become Leader of the Australian Labor Party, I delivered the first of a series of vision statements to outline my policy priorities.
 
In that address, given in Perth, I declared that my ambition was for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower.
 
I said:

Australia can be the land of cheap and endless energy – energy that could power generations of metal manufacturing and other energy intensive manufacturing industries.

In the 18 months since then, my team and I have worked to develop this concept into a series of concrete policy proposals that we will take to the next election.
 
Our aim is simple: After years of policy drift under the current Government, Labor stands ready to provide national leadership.
 
Australia will continue to export resources, including coal, based upon global demand.
 
Labor respects existing resource export industries for the jobs they provide to Australians.
 
Decisions about the long-term future of those industries will be made in the boardrooms of Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and New Delhi.
 
But renewables represent the future. We ignore this fact at our national peril.
 
In fact, there are tremendous opportunities to export renewable energy, as the Sun Cable project is looking to do with a 4,500 kilometre pipeline to transport solar energy from the Northern Territory to Singapore, and in potential hydrogen exports that Germany and Japan stand ready to sign on for.
 
Follow the money.
 
Over the past two decades, more than $50 billion has been invested in renewables in this nation.
 
That’s no surprise.
 
In 2012 the former Labor Government created the Clean Energy Finance Corporation with a mandate to invest $10 billion in clean energy projects. Since then it has leveraged $2.50 of private investment for every dollar invested.
 
Unsurprisingly, as more projects have come online, the cost of energy generated by renewables has fallen.
 
That’s reflected internationally. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of renewable energy generation has fallen by as much as 82 per cent since over the past decade.
 
At the same time, technological advances have seen the cost of Lithium-ion batteries fall from above $1,100 per kilowatt-hour in 2010, by 89 per cent in real terms to $137/kWh in 2020.
 
Renewable energy is more than competitive.

According to the RBA, the cost for renewable power plants is estimated to be between 40-60% of the costs of a new fossil fuel plant.
 
Our nation, blessed by an abundance of renewable resources, has an outstanding opportunity to cash in.
 
We must use cheap, clean energy to maintain existing energy intensive industries, like aluminium and steel, and also to develop new opportunities that have not previously been viable.

Labor is ready to act.
 
We see the nation’s recovery from the COVID recession as an opportunity to build back stronger and to broaden our economic base.
 
First, we’ll capitalise on falling electricity prices by creating a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to direct investment into new, job-creating ventures, particularly in manufacturing.
 
The Fund will use a combination of loans, equity injections, co-investment and lending guarantees to back in companies that see a future in making things in this country.
 
Our ambition is nothing less than a revival of manufacturing built off the back of the availability of clean, cheap electricity.
 
As a simple example, our nation already produces and exports lithium, copper and nickel, which are critical commodities for the development of battery storage and electric vehicles.
 
My vision is for Australia to look beyond bulk exports and continue to develop our own capacity to make batteries and electric vehicle components for export to the world.
 
That is where the National Reconstruction Fund comes in.
 
It will provide support to enterprises which see opportunities in value-adding manufacturing.
 
Value-adding is also the key to agriculture. In 2019-20 the value of the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors was $67 billion dollars.  We export about two-thirds of that.
 
It is good that we export so much quality produce.
 
But if we process food and fibre here, we can extract the extra benefit of creating manufacturing jobs, particularly in regional areas that produce so many agricultural products.
 
The National Reconstruction Fund will also support projects in transport and defence procurement, backing up Labor’s plans to harness the power of government purchasing to drive industrial growth.
 
The bottom line here is that, with the right government policy, Australia has a chance to use lower electricity prices to create our own future, a future built in Australia.

While investment in the energy sector continues to flow towards renewable energy projects, Australia is failing to take maximum advantage because of the inadequacy of our electricity transmission system.
 
Running from Tasmania to Far North Queensland, Australia’s National Energy Market network is one of the longest in the world.
 
But it’s unfit for purpose. It was built for the last century.
 
It fails to take account of the rise of renewables and doesn’t link these new sources up to the national grid.
 
A Labor Government will remove this handbrake on productivity with our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation project, which will overhaul transmission right across the country to accommodate the rise of the renewables.
 
The Australian Energy Market Operator has already produced a detailed blueprint for the projects required to bring the grid up to the needs of the 21st century with its Integrated Systems Plan.
 
All state governments have backed the blueprint, which will create up to $40 billion of economic benefits, including in lower prices for consumers and businesses.
 
If there’s more wind blowing in South Australia than they can use, the right transmission infrastructure will mean they can sell the excess to Victoria and NSW, lowering energy bills in the process.
 
Importantly, we will create the independent Rewiring the Nation Corporation to deliver this important project.
 
Rewiring the Nation will create thousands of construction jobs for regional Australians and we will require the use of Australian materials, including steel.
 
The efficiency gains will put further downward pressure on power prices, which in turn will allow businesses to create more jobs.

Another way to increase the efficient use of renewable energy is to focus on battery storage.
 
One in five homes in this country generates its own power through rooftop solar panels.
 
But of these households, only one in 13 have taken the next step and installed batteries in their own homes to store power generated during the day for use at night.
 
The roadblock is cost.
 
Home battery systems cost as much as $15,000. That’s too much for many families, particularly after they have gone to the expense of buying solar panels.
 
Community batteries present a practical solution.
 
Trials are well advanced on community battery units about the size of a four-wheel drive which can store the excess energy produced by up to 250 households.
 
Energy generated when the sun is out can be stored until the evening then sold back into the grid when prices are high.
 
By using solar-generated electricity more efficiently, community batteries will help stabilise the grid and, importantly, put downward pressure on electricity prices, which will also benefit people without solar panels, such as renters and unit dwellers.
 
A Labor Government will invest $200 million to meet the upfront cost of at least 400 community batteries around the nation.
 
This means householders will be able to store their excess energy without the prohibitive upfront cost of their own batteries.

Over recent decades Australians have shown themselves to be enthusiastic first adopters when it comes to new technology.
 
But despite the global automotive industry moving away from the internal combustion engine and toward electric vehicles, we are way behind the world in taking up this new technology.
 
Less than one per cent of vehicles on our roads are electric. In the United Kingdom the figure is 11 per cent. The global average is 4.2 per cent.
 
Again, the problem is cost.
 
Only a handful of electric vehicle models are available for less than $60,000, putting them beyond most family budgets.
 
A Labor Government will utilise tax reform to reduce the prices of electric vehicles.
 
We will abolish import tariffs on non-luxury electric vehicles now being imported into Australia.
 
Under this change a vehicle like the Nissan Leaf, which costs about $50,000, will be $2,000 cheaper.
 
We’ll also eliminate Fringe Benefits Tax on electric vehicles that are provided to workers by their employers for private use.
 
This measure will cut the cost of a $50,000 electric car by up to $9,000.
 
These changes will apply to any electric vehicle up to the value of $77,565.
This cut-off point is important.
 
We want to encourage global car manufacturers to import more affordable electric cars in preference to high-end models that are out of the reach of most Australians.
 
We will also work with industry, unions, states and consumers to develop Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy.
 
That strategy will explore further measures to increase electric vehicle sales and ensure there are enough recharging stations to meet demand.
 
It will also examine ways to promote Australian manufacturing of electric vehicles or their components.
 
Labor would also lead by example by exploring the feasibility of electrification of the Commonwealth Car Fleet.
 
None of the policies I have talked about today are complex.
 
They are simple, practical steps that will allow our nation to harness the unstoppable rise of renewable energy in the interests of job creation.
 
Ancient Philosopher Heraclitus once noted that change is the only constant in life.
 
I suspect that if he was still around, he would be staggered at the pace of change in the 21st century.
 
It is the job of governments to understand the nature of change and to shape it in the public interest.
 
And there is nothing that serves the public interest more than the creation of good, secure, long-term jobs for Australians.
 
For the past eight years, the Morrison Government has resisted change and failed to take meaningful action on renewables.
 
It is frozen in time while the world warms around it.
 
After 22 attempts, this government still has no energy policy. All it has produced are higher electricity prices.
 
Australia cannot afford further drift and time wasting.
 
We need look no further than the communications sector to see what happens when governments oppose change for ideological reasons.
 
In 2009, the former Federal Labor Government proposed the construction of a fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network.
 
We saw fast broadband as a critical element in driving future economic prosperity and eliminating the tyranny of distance as an impediment to economic growth.
 
But in 2013 the incoming Liberal government downgraded the project with a new model using 19th-century copper wire technology.
 
They told us this copper plan would cost $29.5 billion.  Then it became $41 billion.  Then $51 billion.
 
Then, eight long years later, after buying 50,000 kilometres of copper – enough to wrap around the earth – they accepted Labor was right in the first place and opted for the fibre-to-the-premises model.
 
Their technological misadventure is now forecast to cost $57 billion – the price we all pay for this government of haste and waste.
 
We must not repeat this mistake when it comes to renewable energy. We need to be at the front of the pack, not well behind the pace.
 
We have the technology. We have the best natural resources in the world.
 
We have an opportunity to act now to secure a better future for ourselves and our children.
 
We must seize the day.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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