If clean energy is to drive Australia's economic recovery, let's keep it local

If we still rely on international supply chains for wind, solar and other projects, Australian jobs will be foregone.

From the World Bank and the International Energy Agency to Australia’s own Reserve Bank and a host of national industry bodies the message is clear: our path out of the great economic collapse triggered by Covid 19-must put renewable energy and a decarbonised society at its centre.

However, a business-as-usual approach to renewable energy development means Australia will still miss out on the full benefits of the decarbonisation of our economy. If we still rely on extended supply chains from international markets for the components needed for wind, solar and other projects, skilled and enduring Australian jobs will be foregone.

From components such as steel towers, nacelles and blades for wind turbines, transformers for electricity substations and the turbines and steel pipes for hydro-electric plants, so much of the material needed for the clean energy transition is still imported into Australia.

Steel towers and blades for wind turbines routinely arrive in Australian ports from Vietnam, China, India or Europe. Electrical transformers come in from Japan, and the hydrogen electrolysers needed to make this key export fuel of the future will arrive on our shores from the UK, Germany or the US.

It’s not as though the Australian economy is incapable of manufacturing many of these components. Australia’s single domestic wind tower fabrication business, Keppel Prince in Portland, Victoria, is oversubscribed with orders for Australian-made towers for projects in Victoria and elsewhere. In Wodonga, Wilson Transformer Company has scaled up its apprentice workforce to meet demand for electrical transformers for new solar farms and is now integrating them with solar power inverters in partnership with the major German company SMA to allow for more efficient deployment in new solar farm developments.

The Australian technology company Vast Solar develops concentrated solar thermal power plants capable of delivering dispatchable energy stored in a giant “thermal battery” to the grid. It is now exploring how the thousands of mirrors,