About 50,000 sustainable jobs could be created in the Hunter Region over the next five years as a result of a rapid expansion of renewable energy-based projects and zero-emissions industries, a new analysis has found.
The Million Jobs Plan, produced by the climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, argues the shift to a clean electricity grid is inevitable and a unique opportunity exists to accelerate it as part of the post-COVID-19 recovery.
Manufacturing zero emission buses, retrofitting homes and businesses with renewable technologies, creating new markets for coal ash resources, land rehabilitation projects and the manufacture of green steel are among the growth opportunities that exist in the Hunter, according to the report.
But the plan, put together by a panel including Ross Garnaut, Malcolm Turnbull and the Australia Institute's chief economist Richard Denniss, cautions many of these projects will only get off the ground if investors are sent an unequivocal signal that Australia supports large scale renewables.
"The Million Jobs Plan proposes nation-building, transformative projects that can upgrade our economy, modernise our industry, reskill our workforce and deliver a bright and vibrant future - economically and socially," BZE principal researcher Dr Dominique Hes said.
"The land use projects (such as restoring ecosystems) by themselves will make the land more resilient and have enormous implications for the long term viability of tourism, viticulture and world class farming right across the region.
"Thousands of these jobs are in a rolling retrofit of homes in the Hunter. Jobs for small businesses, for local tradespeople, jobs that make our homes healthier, use less energy and potentially become bill free."
Nationally it recommends Australia aims to build 90 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity and 20GW of batteries over five years, a project it estimates would create 22,000 ongoing and 124,000 construction jobs.
In addition, new energy transmission infrastructure should be fast-tracked, with governments intervening to overcome regulatory hurdles.
The report says a wind energy manufacturing industry could be created quickly by converting disused factories to make wind farm components.
BZE Hunter renewal coordinator Danielle Coleman said the plan would assist the region to transition away from coal.
"We know from experience here in the Hunter and around the world that declining markets put coal mining communities at risk of profound economic and social harm from which many struggle to recover," she said.
"The Hunter region is uniquely vulnerable to changes in global markets for thermal coal as our overseas customers switch to renewable energy and that's why this report is crucially important."