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People, Society, and Institutions: Just transition (session two)

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Rusty Langdon

Research Consultant

Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS

Presentation title: Electricity sector workforce projections for Australia’s 2022 Integrated System Plan


Abstract: This work provides electricity sector workforce projections for the 2022 Integrated System Plan (ISP) developed by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).  The projections cover electricity generation, storage, and transmission construction for three ISP scenarios (Step Change, Hydrogen Superpower, Slow Change) and one sensitivity (Offshore Wind). Key findings include:

  • A rapid scale up of the energy workforce is needed to implement the optimal development path in the ISP in all scenarios except the Slow Change.


  • Under the Step Change scenario, the combined workforce for renewable generation, storage, and transmission construction needs to increase by 12,000 in just two years to 2025. Overall electricity sector employment grows by 37,000 from 2023 to peak at 81,000 in 2049


  • If Australia becomes a major exporter of renewable energy (the ‘Hydrogen Superpower’ scenario), the workforce needed would be up to twice as high in the 2030s and up to three times higher in the 2040s, with a peak of 237,000.


  • Under all scenarios, construction dominates the employment profile through the 2020s as the build-out of renewable energy, transmission and storage accelerates. Ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) employment gradually increases, reaching over 50% in all scenarios by 2040


  • Construction employment in large scale technologies is subject to major upswings and downswings, with increases of 13,000 in just two years in the Step Change scenario (45,000 in the Hydrogen Superpower), followed by drop offs which can be very sharp. This ‘boom-bust’ pattern creates significant risks for labour supply, exacerbated by competing demands for infrastructure build in other parts of the economy and the fact that much of the energy infrastructure is in rural areas


  • Fossil fuel employment in power stations or producing gas or coal for Australian electricity generation declines steadily to around 2,000 jobs in the late 2040s, regardless of scenario.


  • The electricity workforce needed nationally to deliver the energy transformation is far larger and more diverse as the modelling does not include any of the jobs in energy efficiency, demand-side and energy management, or electrification, which could more than double the workforce projections.

It was recommended that future ISPs should include workforce projections and a sensitivity which examines the implication of smoothing the employment profile, to allow a better understanding of the costs and benefits of reducing the volatility of employment demand. A range of research priorities were also identified to address gaps and maintain the accuracy of workforce projections to workforce development strategies.

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Sangeetha Chandrashekeran

Senior Research Fellow

University of Melbourne

Presentation title: Electrification, energy hardship and vulnerability: results from a mixed methods study


Abstract: Factors underpinning household electrification are complex and incompletely understood. Our research sheds light on the options to address economic, social, policy and market barriers faced by energy poor, low income households, to enable electrification.
The Victorian Government's Gas Substitution Roadmap relies on residential electrification, with replacement of gas appliances with electric appliances. In this mixed methods study with Brotherhood of St Laurence we asked (1) what are the challenges low income, energy poor and vulnerable households face to transition away from gas? and (2) what program, policies or regulatory settings would enable an affordable and inclusive transition?
Households receiving BSL energy assistance, and members of a refugee and migrant community, were invited to complete an online survey. 220 of 236 responses were included in analysis, based on income, income support and financial hardship. Six focus group discussions were held, including two online and one in Burmese language. Over half of survey respondents were in financial stress (57%), with one in four having gone without meals (26%) and one in three unable to heat their home (35%) due to a shortage of money in the past year. Close to two-thirds (64%) of surveyed households were classified as experiencing energy hardship. This group was more likely to be renting or in social housing, and to include children or someone with disability or chronic illness.
Only a small proportion of households (8%) opposed a transition away from gas. Opinions did not differ according to energy hardship, but the capacity to make this transition was strongly mediated by financial resources and home ownership. Private renters faced substantial barriers to electrification, due to precarious and unaffordable housing, poor relationships with rental providers, and split incentives. Despite the availability of government rebates, economic factors such as the upfront cost of replacing appliances and access to finance remained significant barriers to electrification for many households. Social and relational factors emerged as highly important, cutting across many aspects of the customer journey – including a lack of trust in energy and appliance retailers and installers.
Demand for information was particularly high amongst those speaking a language other than English at home, with the need for independent, trusted and tailored advice confirmed across all focus groups. For those experiencing severe energy hardship, however, no amount of information could overcome the structural barriers to electrification. Stronger rental and appliance standards and wide-scale energy retrofits for renters will make a difference.

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Nam Tran


The University of Adelaide

Presentation title: Economic optimisation of ammonia supply chain system based on economic, social and governance (ESG) factors


Abstract: The Haber-Bosch (HB) process, the main method for ammonia (NH3) production, contributes to near 2% of the global carbon emissions. This asks for alternative ways of production with low or zero emission of carbon dioxide. The use of renewable energy and activation of renewable, yet not reactive molecules both ask for electrification of chemistry, and plasma is one way to do. Yet, plasma suffers from low energy efficiency. One way of out this problem might be a micronisation of plasmas to ‘microplasmas’.
The presentation will provide examples of using different kind of microplasma designs for the synthesis of ammonia and other products from renewable sources such as air and water and using renewable energies such as wind, solar and biomass. The microplasma reactors include a multipyramid microvolume reactor for electrical field intensification at the tips, a microjet plasma reactor for submerged jet gas-liquid operation, and a gas-liquid ‘microbubble plasma reactor’. The latter does produce directly ammonium- and nitrate containing fertilizing solutions opening the door to an at-farm net-zero fertigation production.
On the context of what has been mentioned above, distributed plants next to farmers and fed by renewable energy can reduce emissions from transport, as well as NH3 storage, shortage risks, and price volatility. Multi-objective optimization was used to address the economic potential of distributed plants across Australia. Results showed that ammonia can be produced at $317/ton at a regional scale using high temperature plasma hydrogen generation which could be competitive to the conventional production model if credits in terms of lead time and carbon footprint were considered [1]. Considering that the economic viability of small-scale plants can be promoted by their environmental benefits, life cycle assessments of the different NH3 supply chains were performed. The carbon footprint of centralized production was up to 2.96 kg.CO2- eq/kg.NH3, where 29.3% corresponded to transport. Local plants using electrolysis and HB loops obtained rates of 0.12, -0.52, and -1.57 kg.CO2-eq/kg.NH3 using solar, wind, and biogas sources, respectively [2]. Regional plants using high temperature plasma instead of electrolysis obtained its best rate of -0.65 kg.CO2-eq/kg.NH3 using biogas. At farm electrolysis-based plants feeding novel non-thermal plasma NH3 synthesis reached a rate of -1.07 kg.CO2-eq/kg.NH3, using solar energy.
[1] H. Pho, V. Hessel et al. Carbon 198 (2022,) 22-33.
[2] N.N. Tran, V. Hessel et al. ACS Sust Chem Eng 9, 48 (2021) 16304-16315a.
[3] J. Osorio-Tejada, N.N. Tran, V. Hessel, STOTEN 826 (2022) 154162.

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David Roche

Research Director

Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS

Presentation title: Energy, comfort and inclusion: opportunities in the Glebe precinct


Abstract: UTS has a strong interest in the objectives of social justice and inclusion, including in its immediate precinct, as well as ambitious carbon reduction goals. In late 2021, UTS launched the Climate Impact Lab (CIL) to apply our problem-solving experience and capabilities to climate challenges beyond our campus and into our local community. Focussing on the inner-Sydney suburb of Glebe, the pilot is exploring innovative options and business models to decarbonise buildings, with a focus on social housing. To date we have used workshops to start conversations with key stakeholders, including community members, NGOs and governments, and conducted energy audits to understand current energy issues from a tenant perspective. Next steps will include testing how to capture value through integrated program delivery at multiple pilot sites, which will be used to design a business model for wider rollout.

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