News from the front desk: Issue No 313 – On a correction we’re delighted to bring you

Queensland's Whitsundays – pretty-huh?
Queensland's Whitsundays – pretty-huh?

On 27 July this year we ran an appointments story that chief executive of Beyond Zero Emissions Stephen Bygrave had been appointed by the Queensland government as its executive director of climate change in the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

It turns out we were wrong. And, in one of the sweetest instances of corrections you could imagine, it might not be the last time we are wrong. Consider it instead as a kind of new found phenomenon of guzumping – not for hot property, but for hot talent in the green and climate space.

While the Queensland appointment story was correct at the time it wasn’t correct for long. The ACT government, it seems, quickly stepped in with a counter offer and Queensland was back at the recruiters office looking for someone like Bygrave.

That is not going to be so easy.

Our recruitment sources say that with a growing number of businesses and governments (excluding the Feds and excluding the Libs) setting aggressive renewables and net emissions targets, there is a competition for talent that will hit the sector with speed.

To blame are the most “beautiful set of numbers” you can imagine: zero, a big fat zero on emissions and massive ramps up on renewables from about 50 per cent in the case of Queensland by 2030 and 100 per cent in the case of ACT, if the government holds its line after its impending 15 October election and wins, or if a new government follows suit.

Victoria and South Australia also have ambitious net zero and renewable energy targets right now, and all, we heard, are searching hard for new executive leaders with the skill sets that can deliver the goods.

Think policy background, energy background, land use skills.

“There is genuine interest from state and territory governments that have set ambitious targets for net zero and they are all recruiting for these roles,” our source said.

It’s fantastic news for the industry, and bad news for the hard working NGO and advocacy groups who have to deal with the mixed blessing of finally being successful and now needing to fill the vacancies of the departing talent.

“Two or three years ago, pre-Paris, the industry couldn’t have imagined the demand from state and territory governments. We’ve now got 2 degrees [maximum warming] on the table and there are two to four states that want to set zero emissions targets by 2050.

“I don’t think the industry or the sector would have seen this coming and it shows there is demand out there for skills that can assist both business and the state and territory governments.”

But it’s not just the states and territories. It’s the business sector that is competing for the talent. There are at least nine major multinationals that have set 100 per cent renewables targets – Apple, Google and Nike included.

In the case of the states and territories some of those ambitious targets may now be contingent on the PM and COAG forcing a backdown in the new found national zest for energy security (to match border security?).

Which will place pressure on the talent.

In Australia the Feds have promised a national target of 23.5 per cent by 2020 and with just three and a bit years to go, we’re only half way there on our emissions targets.

Which puts pressure on us all.

Queensland still on the hunt

Meanwhile Queensland was back at the recruiters looking for a general manager portfolio sustainability and innovation for Queensland Energy this week.

Calls to recruiter KornFerry to inquire if this was related to Bygrave’s brief gig were not returned.

One thing is certain, Queensland Energy, created in 2016 with the merger of Energex, Ergon Energy and SPARQ Solutions is now one of the country’s “largest government owned corporations’ the job ad boasts, with “over $24 billion in total assets and $5 billion in annual revenue”.

The job is to drive the outfit’s “sustainability policy and innovation agenda through strategic asset investment and development and the implementation of contemporary environmental strategy”, which we trust means renewables.

The sustainability and innovation angle could well be connected to the announcement this week from Queensland that 50 per cent renewable energy is both possible by 2030 and cost neutral.

Well done Queensland; let the PM know you will not be bowed or bullied into lowering your renewables target. Well, not much. At the same time we heard the state was fast tracking the Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin.

The PM of course had used the recent storms in South Australia, which brought down the power grid after 80,000 lightning strikes, to somehow link the blackout to renewables and call for the Labor states to tone down their ambitions in that area.

The UN however, was not impressed and this week countries including China and the US sent a detailed, “please explain” letter to our Aussie hero leaders to ask why it was doing this and where, by the way, were its plans to meet the Paris targets, agreed to.

Humiliating.

Battery surge follows power surge

But vengeance is best served cold, they say. So two weeks after the storms, we see that demand for battery storage has surged more than 30 times.

Installers say “blackout proofing” has become a new buzzword among householders, the AFR said in a report on Thursday.

The surge in inquiries about home storage battery systems has been almost overwhelming as it adds a new level of demand from customers previously focused on environmental considerations and reducing power bills from weaning themselves off the traditional electricity grid.

Natural Solar managing director Chris Williams, who runs a national firm with its headquarters in Sydney, said the biggest jump had been in South Australia and Victoria, but demand had spiked across the country after the blackouts put the future of electricity grids and renewable energy sharply into the national spotlight.”

We have seen a massive pick-up in demand,” Mr Williams said on Thursday. “It’s been 30 times the normal levels”.

Ahh, not quite what the PM and his puppeteers had in mind. In fact a backlash for the PM – just as we were all getting used to backflips from the pollies.

All good, we’re winning; they’re losing.

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