Blog | 16th Oct, 2018

4 examples that prove climate action is great for local jobs

In our report ‘Making sure the renewable boom delivers for Victorians’ we looked at how state government leadership on clean energy has supported local manufacturers, and given them the certainty to invest and grow their workforce.

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We know Victorians can build the local clean energy solutions to our pollution crisis — but we need governments that are willing to provide a vision and lead the way. So let’s meet 4 local manufacturers building the clean energy boom. 

WILSON TRANSFORMER COMPANY (WTC)

“A strong Victorian Renewable Energy Target is a critical ingredient for Victorian manufacturers” — Ed Wilson, owner of Wilson Transformers.

Wilson Transformer Company (WTC) is a family-owned business that started in South Melbourne in 1933, and now operates in Glen Waverley and Wodonga.

They have provided transformers to projects such as the Waubra, Ararat and Mt Gellibrand wind farms and has seen significant growth in demand for their renewable energy components.

Victoria’s Renewable Energy Target has played a key part in this growth and in their decision to invest $10m upgrading its Wodonga facility.

Credit WTC

Wilson Transformer Company recently built substations for the large-scale battery at Gannawarra solar farm in north-west Victoria.

The substations were designed and manufactured at the WTC factory in Wodonga, and was supported by public investment from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Victorian Government. A great example of how clean energy investment directly supports local jobs and manufacturing. 

Read more about WTC, click here.

Ed Wilson, the owner of Wilson Transformers, says:

“A strong VRET is a critical ingredient for Victorian manufacturers as it encourages renewable energy project developers to look first towards local manufacturers. It’s then up to local manufacturers to provide a competitive solution and value proposition for the developers to consider.”

KEPPEL PRINCE

“If we can be sure that there will be consistent demand for wind towers, then we’ll be able to double our manufacturing capacity … An ambitious VRET is vital to helping us make this investment.” — Dan McKinna, Assistant General Manager, Keppel Prince

Keppel Prince is an engineering company in Portland that specialise in the construction of wind farm towers.

They grew significantly in the 2000s but were devastated after the Baillieu government imposed new planning restrictions in 2010, essentially making it impossible to construct new wind farms.

Today, however, Keppel Prince is again putting on more workers. The company recently invested $2m to double their production capacity to meet the demand from the federal and state renewable energy targets, and their workforce is predicted to grow from 100 to 200 employees by the end of the year.

If sufficient demand is brought online through the Victoria’s renewable energy target, Keppel Prince could significantly increase investment, with $11m worth of upgrades and an increase in staff.

Dan McKinna, Assistant General Manager, Keppel Prince says

“The importance of certainty for our business cannot be overstated. We have projects locked in for the next 18 months, which has led to a $2M (AUD) investment in plant and equipment and the creation of 50 full-time jobs. In the coming months with the VRET we will be able to further streamline our business processes and reduce our manufacturing costs. These improvements are absolutely vital if Australian manufacturers are to compete with businesses in Asia.

“But this growth is just the beginning. With more certainty and ambition from the state government we’ve got really big plans. If we can be sure that there will be consistent demand for wind towers, then we’ll be able to double our manufacturing capacity to build much bigger towers, which are quickly becoming industry standard. An ambitious VRET is vital to helping us make this investment.

“This investment will double our workforce in Portland, and help position Victoria as Australia’s preeminent state for manufacturing renewable energy components.”

NEXANS OLEX

“The VRET has played a vital role in keeping Nexans Lilydale operation here in Victoria.” — Geoffrey Simpson, Director of Renewable Energy at Nexan Olex.

Nexans Olex is an Australian manufacturer of electrical cables which are used across Victoria to connect wind and solar projects to the grid.

The Nexans Olex facility in Lilydale

Nexans Olex started in the 1940s in Footscray, and today they employ over 500 people in Australia and New Zealand, with manufacturing facilities in Lilydale (Victoria) and New Plymouth (New Zealand).

The company has pioneered technologies designed for Australian conditions, like a specialised transition and joining cabinet to be used across Australia to connect wind farms to the grid.

For Nexans Olex, Victoria’s renewable energy target plays a key role in justifying their ongoing presence in Victoria, providing a strong basis for investment and driving demand for their products. For example, the VRET was an important factor in the company’s decision to invest $10m to expand its Lilydale facility, which kept manufacturing jobs in Victoria.

Geoffrey Simpson, Director of Renewable Energy at Nexans Olex, says:

“For factories such as our Lilydale facility to remain viable, it’s vital that we have strong, reliable demand from renewable energy projects in Victoria. Indecision at the federal level has dampened global enthusiasm to invest in Australia’s renewable sector. However, state action such as Victoria’s VRET has acted as a counterweight, showing that investments in Victoria are still viable. The VRET has played a vital role in keeping Nexans’ Lilydale operation here in Victoria and driven renewable energy project optimising innovation.”

Nectar Farms, Stawell

“We can have renewable energy power the business, so the reality is the community wins, industry or business wins, and the environment wins.” — Tony Driscoll, Mayor of Northern Grampians Shire.

Nectar Farms near Stawell in Western Victoria is a hydroponic vegetable farm, and is Australia’s biggest glass-house! Their ability source cheap power from a local wind farm and large-scale battery has allowed them to continue and expand their business, which means hundreds of local jobs!

We spoke to councillors and local business owners at a recent clean energy forum in Ararat.

When Nectar farms wanted to expand their operations they had planned to use polluting gas. But heating the glasshouse is a costly operation that requires a lot of energy, and the cost of gas was going to be massive and the supply unreliable.

The whole operation was in danger of being abandoned or moved elsewhere, but instead Nectar Farms turned to local clean energy!

They signed a deal with energy company Neon to buy power from the nearby Bulgana wind farm and a large-scale battery.

The wind farm and large-scale battery will provide the 24 hr reliable and cheap energy Nectar Farms needs for its hydroponic greenhouses. When complete it will be the world’s first ever protected crop farm powered by 100% clean energy.

This means Nectar farms did not have to move, keeping the current jobs in the area, and the expansion will provide jobs for another 300 Victorians.

Dramatic expansion of Nectar Farms to create 1300 new jobs for western Victoria

The Stawell Times

A massive expansion of Nectar Farms, powered by wind energy, will see more than 1300 new jobs created in western Victoria.

The take-home message

These case studies reveal a clear need for certainty. We can maximise the local job opportunities from building climate solutions if governments are willing to lead the way.

To invest, grow, and employ more Victorians, local manufacturers need to know there will be a consistent and ongoing demand for their products. They need governments that can set a long-term vision for clean energy and chart a path beyond the politically driven cycles of boom and bust.

Get all the detail on how we make that happen in our report ‘Making sure the renewable boom delivers for Victorians’.

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