Act now to create a renewable export industry

Australia could create 395,000 new jobs and generate $89 billion in new trade by 2040 through investment in renewable energy exports. This is greater than the economic value and jobs in today’s fossil fuel exports.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen. Photo: Hillary Montague

Speaking at the Forum’s breakfast event, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen reaffirmed the Australian government’s ambition to ensuring we become a renewable export powerhouse.

“The dividends for our country could be enormous. Now we ‘ve got to get on with it. Build the renewables, build the transmission, build the storage – and then build it more so we can export it to the world.”

The ‘Sunshot: Australia’s Opportunity to Create 395,000 Clean Export Jobs’ report, released last October, outlined a future in which:  

  • renewable hydrogen and ammonia will provide 33,000 direct and indirect jobs, generating some $28.9 billion in revenue. 
  • critical minerals will provide 110,000 direct and indirect jobs, generating $38.4 billion in revenue. 
  • batteries made in Australia will generate $27.6 billion and lead to 45,000 direct and indirect jobs, and 
  • education and training, engineering and ICT and consulting services would account for 96,000 jobs combined, and more than $17 billion in revenue. 

The Sunshot report outlines a Renewable Export Strategy that includes: a $5 billion fund for workers and regions delivered by a new energy transition authority to manage the transition in regional economies and workers whose livelihoods depend on carbon-intensive industries; support for low-carbon materials in major infrastructure projects; co-investment in new industries and coordinated investment in renewable energy powered industrial precincts. 

“On the back of the Jobs and Skills Summit, Australia has an opportunity to reset and set ourselves up to build the industries of the future as we decarbonise. Acting now puts us in the box seat to take advantage of our world class skills, abundant resources and proximity to markets to secure existing jobs and create new ones” says Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of Business Council of Australia. 

“We can and should reach net zero by harnessing Australia’s abundant natural resources to boost exports, drive investment in new technology and deliver a stronger economy with new and better jobs”, says Ms Westacott.  

“Australia has the key ingredients to build a thriving renewable export sector. We have abundant sunshine and wind, a high-quality education and research system, critical minerals resources and advanced manufacturing capabilities. Most importantly we now have a new mindset – one that sees this as the biggest opportunity in a century for our nation – to deliver meaningful change,” says Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia.  

“Achieving this change will require bold, coordinated national and state actions, unlocking billions in investments that must be supported through a national renewable energy exports strategy. The time is right for Australia to play a leadership role in addressing climate change – including hosting the climate COP – because we have the potential to be the tipping point for global energy transformation,” says Mr O’Gorman. 

“The Sunshot plan is an exciting and shared blueprint for creating good and well-paid jobs in renewable energy export industries, especially in the regions that have powered our country for so long,” says Michele O’Neil, President of ACTU. 

“Those workers and communities most affected by our energy transition need the support, the retraining and opportunity to land those jobs. That’s exactly why we are all united on the need for a national energy transition authority to deliver this,” says Ms O’Neil. 

“At present Australia’s exports are fuelling the climate crisis, but we can retain our mantle as a reliable exporter with a new focus on critical minerals, renewable energy and green steel, hydrogen and aluminium,” says Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Climate damage is here, now, so we need climate action now,” says Kelly O’Shanassy.

Read on for information on each sector and a summary of where the jobs will be created.  

The participants in the panel discussion that followed Minister Bowen’s speech were: 

  • Moderator: Emma Herd, Partner EY 
  • Michele O’Neil, President at ACTU 
  • Karrina Nolan, Executive Director at Original Power & a key architect of the First Nations Clean Energy Network 
  • Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO at ACF 
  • Dermot O’Gorman, CEO at WWF-Australia 
  • Clark Butler, Director at Zero Industrials 

Background information and other media releases at

Full list of speakers at, and program at

For further information contact Amanda Caldwell, 0410 148 173, or Hillary Montague, 0423 831 369,



Export of hydrogen, most likely in the form of ammonia as a carrier, produced by renewable energy offers opportunity to move from a domestic product to international markets in Europe, Japan, Singapore, Korea and China. This might be done using electrolysers connected to a grid serviced by renewable energy or an off-grid renewable energy development. The market is still developing with many technical issues to be addressed however Australia has the natural resources to produce high quantities of renewable energy, and significant infrastructure and skills from the LNG industry that may be repurposed for hydrogen sector development.

Critical minerals 

Australia is well placed to capture markets looking for reliable and ethical sources of critical minerals for clean energy technology; each year, globally Australia produces 49% of lithium, 7.1% of renewable rare earths (RRE), 6.8% of nickel, 4.4% of copper and 4.1% of cobalt. Australia has existing mining expertise that can be expanded to make critical minerals mining processes cleaner, particularly in electrifying processes and swapping supply to renewably sourced energy.


Building batteries in Australia will expand the number and types of jobs in and supporting lithium mines in Western Australia in the first instance. Australia currently mines just under half of the world’s supply of lithium. 

But battery manufacturing will also use the significant chemical, cell and electrical manufacturing capacity in the major metropolitan regions of eastern Australia and capitalise on existing warehousing, shipping and transport infrastructure and high skilled labour.  

A large number of jobs will be supported by a skilled workforce already in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with 35% of jobs for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 27% with a Cert III qualification. Approximately 5% of jobs will support people with ‘other’ types of qualifications and 32.% for no post school qualification. 

Professional services 

Australia exported ~$12 bn worth of engineering, ICT, consulting and mining services in 2018-19, with ICT exports particularly growing significantly, with a 5-year average annual growth rate of 14.6%. Australian software companies now generate revenue all over the world, with the US, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia and Chile currently the main international markets. 

In addition, there are a growing number of Australian companies exporting environmental, renewable energy and energy efficiency services globally with 100+ Australian companies currently providing clean energy related engineering, consulting, and other professional services to key export markets in Asia as well as the Americas, Europe and the Middle East. 

Boost to regions 

Where new jobs would be located: 

  • 69 000 in Western Australia – 23k critical minerals mining and refining; 28k green metals; 8k hydrogen 
  • 78 000 in Queensland – 38k critical minerals mining and refining; 15k green metals; 9k education and training 
  • 31 000 in South Australia – 14k green metals; 4k education and training; 5k critical minerals mining and refining 
  • 6 000 in Northern Territory – 4k critical minerals mining and refining; 1k green metals; 1.3k other opportunities 

Source: Sunshot: Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs p27 

  • 98 000 in NSW – 23k critical minerals mining and refining; 34k green metals; 19k education and training 
  • 67 000 in Victoria – 24k critical minerals mining and refining, 14k batteries, 13k green metals 
  • 4 000 in ACT – 1.7k education and training, 1k critical minerals mining and refining, 700 green metals 
  • 11 000 in Tasmania – 5k green metals, 3k critical minerals mining and refining; 1k education and training. 

Source: Sunshot: Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs p28 

Full list of speakers at, and program at

Speech transcript

Address to the Better Futures Forum

7 September 2022

CHRIS BOWEN: Thanks very much, Dermot, and I also want to acknowledge the fact that this is Ngunnawal and Ngambri land. The camera is asking me to get behind the lectern. There you go.

I also want to acknowledge that this is Ngunnawal and Ngambri land and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. And I was very pleased that State and Territory Energy Ministers agreed a few weeks ago, unanimously, to co-design with our First Nations people a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy because First Nations people, of course, are at the front-line of battling the impacts of climate change right around the country. There is no disadvantage that isn’t made worse by climate change, but, of course, First Nations people need to be and will be very much at the centre of the solutions as well.

Well, friends, I really have three quick messages for you this morning. Firstly, together, we’ve done a fair bit in the last 110 days. The government has done a lot, but we haven’t done it alone. We’ve done it working together. Tonight, or tomorrow, the Parliament will pass the Climate Change Bill. It will become the Climate Change Act in the next 24 hours. It’s been a long time between drinks for sensible, progressive climate legislation in our country, but it’s just the beginning. We’ve got a lot more to do, but we’ve done it together. People across the Parliament, passing it through the House of Representatives, 89 votes to 55 – the margin won’t be that big in the Senate, but a majority it shall be. Working together on sensible ideas and people going with what can be done in a workable Parliament to get the job done. And it’s not just about the climate legislation, of course, because a target is easier set than met. We’re getting on with the job whether it’s offshore wind zones, declaring the first zones, beginning the process of consultation on the second, third and fourth zones and the fifth zone. An area which is so jobs rich and energy rich in regions which are in such need of economic investment as they undertake such major economic change. Whether it’s beginning the conversation about how we decarbonise our transport sector.

We will pass our electric vehicle tax cut through the House of Representatives this fortnight. I’m confident that will pass the Senate as well. We’ve begun the conversation about how we require car manufacturers to actually send fuel-efficient zero-emissions cars to Australia. Part of the issue is still increasing demand, sure, but more and more the issue is supply. As we know, when a new electric vehicle comes on sale in Australia, you better be quick, because they sell out in the first 30 seconds. We’re not getting enough supply. Australia is the only country in the OECD not to require car manufacturers to send fuel-efficient zero-emissions vehicles to our country. That has an impact. Only Australia and Russia in the developed world have no obligations on car manufacturers. That has an impact. We’re having that conversation about how we fix that. Getting on with the job.

And I was very pleased that clean energy was such a big factor in last week’s successful Jobs and Skills Summit. While I was representing us at the G20 Climate and Energy Ministers, John Grimes and Kane Thornton and others were doing such a good job representing you at the Jobs and Skills Summit because clean energy is, as we all know, the centre of a successful economy. So, that’s the first message. We’ve done a fair bit.

My second message is, though, we’ve got a lot, lot more to do. This is just the beginning, just the framework. Now, some of you have heard me say before there’s only 88 months to 2030. I’m here to tell you it’s now September; there’s 87 months to 2030. The clock is eight years is actually a big ask. I want it to be a floor. I want us to do better. We’ll get emissions down as low as possible, but actually reducing emissions over that time frame is actually lightning speed when you consider how late our country is starting on this journey.

Our daughter Grace is doing the HSC at the moment. She starts university next year. It seems like yesterday we were dropping her off at kindergarten. That was 12 years ago. And yet we got a lot less than that to reduce emissions by 43 per cent and get it done, and it’s not going to happen unless we build 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines their emissions, our 215 biggest emitters reducing emissions under the safeguard’s mechanism. It’s not going happen unless we decarbonise our transport system. It’s not going to happen unless the government itself gets to net zero by 2030. All these things have to happen and more. So, we’ve got a lot to do and again I want to do it together with you, with the industry, across the board.

And my final and third message is this: the dividend for our country is enormous. Some people say, “oh, well, you know, we shouldn’t be doing this. Other countries should be doing this.” You know and I know that’s nonsense. You know and I know we’re the 14th biggest emitter in absolute terms. To argue that we shouldn’t do anything because this country is bigger than us is to argue that, well, the 13 big countries should do something but us and the 190 countries below us shouldn’t bother. You know that’s a fallacious argument. You know it’s a moral obligation to the rest of the world and future generations. All that is true. But even if it wasn’t true, even if no other country was doing nothing, it’s in our nation’s interests to become a clean energy superpower. It is good for our country, good for our economy, good for our national security. It is good for us. It is in our national interests.

For too long, Australians have been told – for 10 years and longer Australians were told action on climate change might be all morally virtuous, but it comes at a cost to you and the dividend for our country is enormous, as you know with your Sunshot project. As so many reports, so many analyses, as common sense tells us, with more sunlight hitting our landmass than any other country in the world, with above-average wind, we have enormous opportunities to do all that and more. Choose your superlative. Renewable energy superpower. Renewable energy powerhouse. The Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Whatever it is. Whatever your preferred superlative is, it’s all accurate and true and potential. But again, as I said, before not unless we get on with it, build the transmission, build the storage.

We can build renewable energy. We know how to do that. We’ve got to know how to store it as well. You’ve heard me say before, sure, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. That is a fact. Congratulations to the deniers and the delayers for working that out. The rain doesn’t always fall either and we store water. We drink that water every day. It can be done with storage, and it will be done with storage. But this is the key. Build the renewables, build the storage, build the transmission and then build it more so we can export it to the world. These are the opportunities for us.

And I’ll finish with this point, and I mentioned it once or twice. We do it together. In the Albanese Government we’ve got passion, we’ve got energy, we’ve got urgency and we know it all. We’ll work across the Parliament in good faith. We’ll work across the sector in be able to work with. Some might be difficult, but we’ll always work it through and talk it through together and work out what can be done. This is the opportunity facing our country. I can’t wait to do more with you. It has to be done. We’ve wasted a decade. We’re not wasting a second now and nor do we have a second to waste. So, let’s get on with it.

Thank you for your time this morning.


Minister Chris Bowen, Better Futures Forum. Photo: Hillary Montague
Minister Chris Bowen, Better Futures Forum. Photo: Hillary Montague