Productivity will be vital to unlocking the Energy Transition and planet Earth’s next industrial revolution. While new technologies are sure to help and will be raised up as heroes of the day, basic construction and labour best practices will underpin the whole process. The same fundamentals that have allowed civilisation to progress for thousands of years.

As Thomas Edison said: “vision without execution is hallucination”. 

The scale of the execution becomes clear when we zoom out to look at what the next industry shift will look like as the world moves away from centralised, fossil fuel-burning power plants to an array of widely distributed energy resources. Solar and wind generators already contribute significant amounts of power to our electrical grids.

But each installation we see dotting the surrounding countryside or patch of the ocean represents a modern construction project involving real people and real skills. Adhering to the best practices during these projects is as important as the end result.

Ensuring the health and safety of workers are maintained while protecting surrounding communities and the broader environment from any potential harm. With a focus on improving construction methods in unison, we can ensure that the Energy Transition advances more than just how we produce electricity. 

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Building Productivity Will be Key

Australia has made enormous strides in renewables over the past decade or so, raising the share of wind and solar in the grid to over 30% since 2010. Hinging on construction practices and the procurement of materials like concrete, steel, aluminium, and electrical parts, the demand for physical inputs hasn’t changed. 

However, the construction industry has traditionally poor labour productivity, which could hinder its ability to build energy assets on time and on budget. Simply put, getting the construction aspects of the Energy Transition right may pose the biggest challenge to achieving its central goals.

The Australian government’s Powering Australia Plan acknowledges as much in its guiding principles.

In managing and delivering policies and programs to underpin the supply of reliable, secure and affordable energy, the government aims to provide “long-term benefit to the Australian community through improved energy supply, efficiency, quality, performance and productivity.”

And while technology has come a long way in helping construction firms improve their productivity stats, the industry at large is slow to adopt change, even if it leads to improved best practices and outcomes. Much of this is due to the reality of low margins and many family-operated enterprises that are understandably reluctant to splash cash on the latest and greatest innovations. But if Australia and the world are to achieve their 2030 emissions reduction targets and net zero by 2050, refining construction industry practices will play an essential part. 


The Shared Future of Construction and Renewable Energy 

A bright future for renewable energy means a busy construction sector – the two go hand in hand. To hit the targetted net-zero goals, the world’s economies will need to spend in the order of $4 trillion by 2030 on new energy infrastructure. It’s an incredible sum, but as we have seen, aside from the money, it comes down to the practicalities of building the assets.

This aspect has stayed the same.

Predicting cash flow is one thing; pouring concrete is another. As Australia progresses towards the next industrial shift, it’s crucial that we ensure best practices keep up with the pace of technological change. An efficient, safe and productive construction sector will allow the Energy Transition to progress more smoothly as time goes by, allowing all stakeholders – from the government down – to hit their overarching goals.


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