Tech billionaire and climate warrior Mike Cannon-Brookes says there has never been a more compelling time for Australia to adopt clean energy and he believes Canberra is starting to listen.
- Mr Cannon-Brookes is one of the names behind the One Million Jobs Plan that was launched last week
- He says the coronavirus pandemic is the best opportunity Australia has for large-scale job creation in renewable energy
- He labelled an energy technology plan by Energy Minister Angus Taylor as “a strategy without a destination”
As governments grapple with quick ways to create jobs and stimulate activity, Atlassian co-founder Mr Cannon-Brookes said masses of large-scale renewable projects are shovel ready.
“We’ve lost about 800,000 jobs so far in the last four months. The plan has 1.8 million jobs we can refill them with, which we can move forward with. There is a whole raft of measures there, this is not about government subsidies,” he told the ABC’s The Business program.
Mr Cannon-Brookes is one of the big names behind the One Million Jobs Plan that was launched last week by climate-focused think tank Beyond Zero Emissions.
Malcolm Turnbull and Ross Garnaut are among other business and policy heavyweights to back the plan, which proposes a raft of projects from wind farms to green social housing as a way to take the economy towards zero emissions but also create jobs and activity.
The renewable energy proposal is to build 90 gigawatts of solar and wind energy, backed up with new transmission infrastructure and 20 gigawatts of battery storage.
“It is the best opportunity we have for large-scale job creation in the Australian economy today and so we’ve been broadly sharing the plan and trying to get as many people across it and behind it is possible.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes is now trying to win support from policy makers and influencers.
“I just came from the Governor-General’s residence,” he said.
“He was lovely and wanting to get briefed about the plan and understand what it is and how it painted a vision for where Australia could be a more optimistic and future forward nation in the next 10, 20 and 30 years.”
He says the Beyond Zero Emissions team has also briefed all state and territory governments and been active in Canberra.
Energy appears to be a key plank of the Federal Government’s economic recovery plan out of the pandemic, with ministers and the Government’s advisors talking up cheap gas as key to a renaissance in manufacturing jobs.
In May, Energy Minister Angus Taylor released the Government’s energy technology roadmap, which highlighted the potential for “low emissions technologies” to strengthen the economy and support jobs and businesses.
Mr Taylor said while the road map would consider a wide range of technologies to reduce emissions, it would also consider methods to prolong the life of coal fired power.
But Mr Cannon-Brookes labelled the road map “a strategy without a destination”.
“We need a legislated net zero target for the economy. That should be net zero by 2050, if not earlier,” he said.
“The reason for that is not just to decarbonise the economy, it’s to give certainty to private investment.”
He is not discouraged by the decade of political infighting and stasis over emissions reduction.
“Look, I certainly think we have a great opportunity at the moment to combine the current challenges we have in the economy with our natural strengths as a country,” he said.
He is confident the economics will win over Canberra.
Over the past decade the cost of solar panels has plunged by 85 per cent, and onshore wind has dropped by around half, making them the cheapest forms of power generation.
Beyond Zero Emissions reports that in Australia large-scale solar and wind can produce electricity for $50 per megawatt-hour or less, well below the average wholesale price in recent years.
“Renewables are the cheapest cost of new generation,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
“We have an ageing energy generation fleet that has to change, we also have commitments to decarbonise the country over time. When you put the two together, there should be no other economic solution than renewables.
“It is a no-brainer.”