IPA Today

The Big Winner Is China

Written by
9 August 2022
Originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph

The ongoing net zero push for renewable energy has one major beneficiary – and it is not Australia

Last month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, addressing the media at the Pacific Islands Forum, said the policy of net zero emissions by 2050 and renewable energy were “Australia’s jobs opportunity”.

While the PM’s visit to Fiji was valuable to reset Australia’s neglected relationships throughout the Pacific and to counter China’s growing influence, his ill-informed comments on net zero and renewable energy generation plays right into China’s hands.

Research by the Institute of Public Affairs has identified that over one in two global jobs in the wind and solar industry are in China, with less than one half of 1 per cent in Australia.

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the International Renewable Energy Agency, there are approximately 5.3 million jobs around the world in the wind and solar industries.

Approximately 2.9 million of those jobs are in China and just 21,000 are in Australia.

For every one wind and solar job in Australia there are 138 jobs in China.

Today, China controls the manufacturing supply of 80 per cent of the solar panels imported into Australia.

That amount is set to increase. At the same time the Prime Minister was visiting Fiji, the International Energy Agency announced that it estimates that China will control 95 per cent of all solar manufacturing by 2025.

What this means is that Australian taxpayers’ support for renewables, by way of billions of dollars in subsidies, is creating a green jobs boom for China.

Despite the throngs who promulgate the promises of billions of dollars of investment in so-called “green energy” and all the “green jobs” that are supposed to come with it, the fact is they simply do not exist.

The renewable energy sector accounts for just a pitiful 0.2 per cent of all jobs across the Australian economy.

Compare that tiny figure with agriculture, mining, and manufacturing, which in Australia account for 14 per cent of all jobs.

And the tiny amount of jobs in the renewable sector are relatively low-paid.

For example, workers in the renewables sector are typically paid one-third less than workers in the mining sector, and around 5 per cent less than the economy-wide average.

Net zero will dramatically increase the offshoring of Australian jobs and industry to China. So much so, in fact, that it is a clear and present danger to our energy and national security.

Australia is blessed with a bounty of natural resources, including more than 2000 years’ worth of coal and around 30 per cent of the world’s known uranium deposits.

We have more than enough of our own domestic energy supplies to power industry for decades and develop our own sovereign manufacturing capability.

However, our leaders are choosing to sacrifice our natural competitive advantages to buy solar panels and wind turbines from China.

Australia is effectively handing over control of our power grid to a nation that is growing increasingly hostile towards us.

Worryingly, Australia’s political leaders on both sides of the aisle have failed to learn the lessons of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine which exposed Western Europe’s reliance on foreign energy supplies, in their case Russian gas.

In response, the UK government recently said that it was pausing its commitment to the policy of net zero emissions by 2050 in order to secure their own domestic energy reserves.

According to a recent poll by the Institute of Public Affairs, more than six in 10 Australians back the Australian government undertaking a similar move, including 63 per cent of those living in NSW.

Germany, formerly the poster child for green energy, is currently rebooting its old coal-fired power stations.

Recent emergency legislation allows the country to use 15 coal-fired power stations which were previously on the cards to be shut down over the next two years.

And there are currently some 92 new coal fired power stations being constructed in China.

Yet in Australia, a further six large coal-fired power stations are due to close by the year 2030 under plans to meet the government’s 43 per cent carbon reduction target.

This will take an additional 20 per cent of Australia’s energy generation off our already struggling energy grid.

These policies will worsen Australia’s energy supply crisis and put further upward pressure on already skyrocketing power bills.

They will also undermine Australia’s energy sovereignty, which risks turning Australia into the Germany of the Asia-Pacific when it comes to energy.

Quite simply, without reliable, affordable baseload power generation capability, Australia will have no sovereign capability to manufacture the vital goods we need to operate and defend ourselves as an advanced, first-world nation.

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Daniel Wild

Daniel Wild is the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs

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