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Sector watch: Australia’s energy market

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Managing Director, Jack Rawcliffe, gives an overview on the country’s lively marketplace.

View the original article in Global Recruiter.

The sheer pace at which the Australian energy market is changing makes for a very interesting case amidst the global energy sector. Australia is truly in the hands of the market, with continual political, environmental and economic challenges playing havoc with the energy requirements of the nation.

Energy supply down under continues to transform, with LNG projects continuing to lead the way as Australia fast becomes one of the world’s foremost liquefied natural gas exporters as production increased at a steady five per cent over the past year.

The renewable revolution is also gaining momentum across the country, accounting for six per cent of the entire energy mix last year. It’s no wonder that investment into renewables is on the rise, making the sector even more competitive than fossil fuels which accounted for the majority of Australian power generation in 2016. Wind and solar photovoltaics, in particular, have racked up an incredible amount of generating capacity over the past couple of years, with an increase of 26 per cent year-on-year. This is something we’re expecting to see a lot more of in years to come as increasing energy demands become ever more apparent.

As the global economic structure begins to change, the way in which we use energy adapts; cue the billion-dollar smart energy industry. Fast becoming one of the world’s largest sectors, more and more people are adopting emerging technologies, ultimately making the entire world more energy efficient.

What’s to come

Western Australia is currently the largest producer of LNG, but growing industry is set to drive a higher demand for electricity so we’re expecting this to change. Whilst current project delays are preventing the country from stepping it up a gear, companies remain undeterred, with Australian exports predicted to catapult the Aussies as global leaders in the industry, albeit a little slower than first expected.

One of the main focal points for coming years will be the capability to manage power demands during peak months following a series of unplanned outages. With this, we’re anticipating additional infrastructure and cleaner energy as a means of stabilising the Australian energy grid. This will see a massive push for renewables countrywide, with the Clean Energy Council outlining that over 2250 MW of commercial-scale clean projects would be built this year alone. Both wind and solar projects will continue to grow at a steady pace in a bid to meet Australia’s renewable energy target of 23.5 per cent clean energy by 2020.

From a hiring perspective, the Australian energy market is particularly challenging due to its turbulent nature. Whilst we’ve seen an increase in activity in the recruitment sector as a whole, there is a growing constriction in the skilled labour market with the number of applicants on the decline. The talent pool within the energy market is shrinking, with half of the workforce expected to retire over the next five years or so. Contrary to this, the renewable energy sector alone created almost 15,000 roles in 2015, so with the growing renewables industry creating a number of opportunities, how can the skills shortage in the energy market be rectified?

Acting now

Aside from skilled expatriates, it’s about getting people into the energy sector in the early stages, investing in the sector in order to make it more attractive to a younger generation. After all, as the ever-aging population and the skills shortage continues to grow, there’s no doubt that millennials are the future of the workplace environment.

The increasing desire to earn and learn is one that should be addressed by employers, with the number of young people looking for apprenticeships and vocational training programmes on the rise.

The energy market, as it stands, is polarised; young people are engaged with changes, they want to make a difference and have strong moral values when it comes to their futures and their social responsibility for the environment. But what does this mean for the industry?

We need to influence the digital age with some positive media surrounding the renewable energy sector – keeping a sense of transparency throughout and stressing the importance of creating a sustainable energy future.

More and more employers must begin to consider their future requirements and open their doors to the new generation; offering apprenticeships, internships and vocational training programmes within the market and in-house will build the sector, as well as maintaining efficiency. This will ultimately make the employability route into the energy sector more defined and hopefully more attractive to younger people.

Reducing carbon

As Australia’s population and economy continue to grow, so will energy consumption despite the increase in energy efficiency. This will mean that as the power supply shifts towards low carbon technology, more jobs will be generated, putting Australia in the mix to contribute to a low carbon economy.

With this, the future looks bright for recruitment in the Australian energy sector; providing that the scale of talent grows with the rate of the economy, and the talent pool becomes extensive enough to fulfil the requirements of employers.

As a result of this, we will see more international companies looking to expand into the Australian energy market, like JDR Energy who place candidates across the full energy mix on a global scale whilst operating from offices in London and New York. The nature of the industry provides strong market potential for recruitment companies and we predict that there will be more home grown energy specific start-ups striking it rich and dominating the Australian energy market as we further transition from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives.