Australia’s mission towards net zero has begun in earnest and Newcastle and the wider Hunter region will be central to shaping the energy transition.
- Hunter businesses at heart of region’s energy transition
- Business leaders face talent attraction challenge
- Great ESG credentials will attract talent and win work
Thousands of kilometres of new transmission infrastructure will be built in the next decade through the NSW Government’s creation of the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone, connecting new clean energy projects to the electricity grid.
Organisations such as NewH2 are supporting the development of the hydrogen supply chain and this month’s NewH2 symposium aims to showcase projects and start important conversations around the opportunities that the energy transition will bring to the region.
Underpinning it all is the Federal Government’s Climate Change Bill, which locks in Australia’s greenhouse gas emission targets, starting with a 43 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
The Hunter has been at the heart of energy generation and export for decades and as the transition to renewables gathers momentum, the local business community cannot afford to be spectators.
Businesses need to start planning
Now is the time for business leaders and entrepreneurs to look at longer-term strategic planning and start setting themselves up, by empowering their people and investing in sustainability.
Renewable energy projects will require a big capital expenditure in infrastructure – it’s not going to be cheap to build a solar farm or offshore wind turbines.
Big business may drive some of these energy projects but they will need support and that is where opportunity lies for the local business community.
Business leaders should consider where there will be a new market or opportunity to tap, and examine if training or reskilling is necessary to address gaps in technological capability, or if a recruitment strategy is needed to find employees with the skills to build scalable capability.
Civil engineering and construction businesses, for example, will have plenty of roads and warehouse facilities that will need to be built, but those firms need to start planning now for the capability and scale to deliver.
ESG focus can help recruitment and projects
There can be challenges with attracting people into the region but employers should consider how they can support their people, from offering the flexibility that employees crave to mapping out career and training opportunities.
Impact is also a key selling point. Supporting the transition to renewables is a career option with purpose and establishing offshore windfarms and hydrogen networks are projects that cannot be done in the big cities such as Sydney.
Attracting workers in a labour market where people are increasingly vocal about employer sustainability is difficult without an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, as is winning work from conscientious businesses.
Pitcher Partners 2022 Radar Report showed only 18 per cent of mid-market businesses had created and were reporting on their ESG initiatives.
Businesses that are, or plan to be, key suppliers or contractors must demonstrate ESG credentials or risk losing work, as organisations will be examining their own supply chains and leaning on like-minded organisations.
The value to a business in managing its environmental footprint, setting standards around social impact and accountability in corporate risk management is only increasing.
Preparing for the transition economy will take time so start by looking at where the opportunities might materialise, identify skills and technology gaps in your workforce and establish the training required to bring them up to speed, or to prepare them for the future.
At the same time consider the business’s ESG impact, which will be vital for working partnerships and attracting employees – as stakeholders and investors take more time to understand ESG, a comprehensive risk management framework is essential.
Taking these steps early will set businesses on the road to take full advantage of the opportunities presented in the Hunter’s clean energy future.