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Renewable energy leaders welcome $75m cash injection Labor promise for sector

Written by Ashleigh McMillan / The Curier / 3 May 2019

Renewable energy leaders have welcomed a funding promise for training in the sector, as Ballarat hits ‘critical mass’ with wind energy.

Labor leader Bill Shorten promised on Thursday to put $75 million towards building Australia’s renewable energy sector, which he said will create 70,000 jobs.

National director of the Australian Wind Alliance Andrew Bray said if it goes ahead, the program would be a real “boost for getting younger people involved in the renewable sector”.

“It means you can have jobs in places that were previously dependent almost solely on agriculture,” he said. “Jobs in agriculture go up and down, depending on the seasons and commodity prices, but these are long-term jobs and they’ve meant that young people can stay in local towns.

“Part of the issue for rural and regional Australia has been keeping young people, and having the jobs for them to stay around.”

Ballarat is now directly tied to renewable energy – not only for the hundreds of wind turbines dotting hills around the region – but for a training centre now being created in the city by Federation University.

The $12.5 million Asia Pacific Renewable Energy Training Centre, the first of its kind in Victoria, will train apprentices in the installation and maintenance of wind turbines, solar panels, and domestic batteries, as well as site safety.

Labor has said they will put $45 million towards apprenticeship incentives through which employers could get up to $8000 for taking on a trainee.

The apprentices themselves would get $2000 to help with education costs.

Mr Bray said programs like those at FedUni will be working on the “latest, up-to-date technology” and will work closely with industry, while also having the possibility of a dependable job nearby once they complete study.

“In Ballarat, it’s reaching a real critical mass, there’s now hundreds of turbines around that need technicians to service them.”

If successful at the May 18 election, a Shorten government would also put $20 million towards upgrading TAFE facilities, so equipment at the sites such as batteries and solar panels are industry standard.

A further $10 million would go into a clean energy training fund so workers can be trained and upskilled for renewable industries.

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