HomeNewsTechnologyAustralia needs to grow to be a renewable power superpower. Can it?

Australia needs to grow to be a renewable power superpower. Can it?


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1 hour agoHannah Ritchie,BBC Information, Sydney BBCSunDrive’s Maia Schweizer thinks Australia has what it takes to grow to be a photo voltaic panel manufacturing hubHidden amongst thick bushland within the outer suburbs of southern Sydney sits an expansive facility housing a technological breakthrough.It’s right here that Australian firm SunDrive Photo voltaic makes its “particular sauce”: a brand new – prime secret – method that it says has solved “a really excessive worth downside”.Its huge innovation? Discovering a method to exchange the silver utilized in photo voltaic cells with copper, which was beforehand thought unimaginable.“Silver is dear, scarce and environmentally disastrous, and it limits how a lot photo voltaic may be rolled out all over the world,” explains chief industrial officer Maia Schweizer.“Copper can be extremely in demand, but it surely’s 1,000 instances extra ample, and 100 instances decrease price.”The beginning-up is likely one of the beneficiaries of the federal government’s Future Made in Australia plan – a set of insurance policies that intention to show the nation right into a “renewable power superpower” by investing in homegrown inexperienced industries.However some consultants query whether or not the $A22.7bn ($15bn; £11.8bn) bundle, which includes tax incentives, loans, and kick-starter grants – is sufficient to meet these lofty ambitions.And local weather scientists say that if Australia needs to be a serious participant within the internet zero transition, it must cease peddling fossil fuels.Australia’s economic system has lengthy been powered by its pure assets, akin to coal, fuel and iron ore.However its crucial minerals – lots of which underpin essential low emissions applied sciences – are exported uncooked, and refined overseas, predominantly by China.It’s a dig-and-ship mannequin of commerce that has earned Australia a popularity because the world’s quarry, and seen it lose out on a big chunk of change additional up the availability chain.Lithium – which is used within the batteries that retailer renewable power and energy electrical automobiles – is one instance.Regardless of being accountable for greater than half of the world’s provide, Australia captures simply 0.5% of the worldwide $57bn lithium battery market, based on the nation’s nationwide science company.The Future Made in Australia coverage – which was formally introduced in April – seeks to vary that, by providing tax breaks and loans to corporations looking for to course of crucial minerals at residence.Doing so, the federal government argues, is a nationwide safety precedence, as nations study their commerce dependence on Beijing, and look to insulate themselves towards provide chain shocks.“This isn’t old school protectionism or isolationism – it’s the new competitors,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated, when saying the plan.“We have to intention excessive, be daring, and construct huge, to match the dimensions of the chance in entrance of us.”Alpha HPAAlpha HPA is constructing one of many world’s largest alumina refineries in QueenslandQueensland-based Alpha HPA is likely one of the corporations the federal government has tapped to execute its imaginative and prescient.Like SunDrive, it views itself as a disruptor, resulting from its potential to create ultra-high purity aluminium merchandise – utilized in issues like semiconductors and iPhones – with a decrease carbon footprint than abroad rivals.Because of a A$400m federal mortgage, it’s constructing one of many world’s largest alumina refineries close to the coastal metropolis of Gladstone, which it says will create lots of of native jobs.It’s an enormous supply of delight, given that there’s nonetheless scepticism over whether or not Australia could make issues, after a long time of outsourcing its manufacturing to China, Alpha HPA’s chief working officer Rob Williamson says.“Anyone that places ahead the case that we do not have individuals on this nation to do [this work] is simply not making an attempt,” he provides.SunDrive is on an identical journey.With out authorities assist, Ms Schweizer says, the corporate might need moved offshore.As a substitute, it is trying to rework one of many nation’s oldest coal energy stations into an enormous photo voltaic panel manufacturing hub.Presently, one in three Australian households have photo voltaic panels, the best fee on the planet, and but just one% are made domestically – with China accountable for greater than 80% of world manufacturing.“Each single mineral that it’s essential make a photo voltaic panel, we have one of many prime three reserves on the planet,” Ms Schweizer explains.“Now there’s the potential of the end-to-end worth chain coming onshore in Australia for the primary time, which is tremendous, tremendous thrilling.”The Made in Australia pledge has received the assist of the nation’s greatest renewable power trade commerce our bodies, who say the investments might be “recreation altering”.“It’s a giant alternative for us to be an exporter of local weather options to the world as an alternative of local weather issues,” John Grimes, who heads the Sensible Power Council, says.However some local weather consultants warn it’s being “severely undermined” by the federal government’s latest resolution to champion fuel till 2050 and past regardless of world calls to quickly part out fossil fuels.“We’re sending a extremely blended message to traders,” says Polly Hemming, the director of the Australia Institute’s local weather and power programme.Alpha HPAAlpha HPA already produces a variety of ultra-high purity aluminium supplies“This authorities has continued to approve new fuel and coal initiatives – it is flown to Japan, India, Korea, and Vietnam to safe long-term markets for fuel and coal.“If we actually wished to be a inexperienced power superpower, we wouldn’t be relentlessly pursuing prospects for our fossil fuels,” she says.One of many nation’s main local weather scientists agrees.“There’s a very deep contradiction on the coronary heart of the 2 insurance policies,” says Prof Invoice Hare, chief government of Local weather Analytics and creator of quite a few UN local weather change reviews.“The Future Made in Australia [plan] is enjoying second fiddle to the federal government’s fuel technique.”To know how, Ms Hemming says it’s essential “observe the cash”.In response to an evaluation from her thinktank, final 12 months alone, state and federal governments spent A$14.5bn subsidising fossil gasoline use throughout Australia, and that sum is just anticipated to balloon, based on finances estimates.Against this, she says the A$13.7bn put aside to course of crucial minerals and incubate Australia’s nascent inexperienced hydrogen trade “isn’t actual cash”.That’s as a result of it can take the type of tax breaks over the course of a decade, which can solely be cashed in on manufacturing ranging from 2027 – a mannequin which policymakers say will guarantee taxpayers’ cash just isn’t wasted.However all of the inexperienced hydrogen initiatives – lots of that are being led by the nation’s largest mining and power corporations – are but to be constructed. And the incentives might be scrapped earlier than they get off the bottom if there’s a change in authorities.“It’s like me having a wholesome consuming and junk meals coverage operating on the similar time in my residence and telling my youngsters, ‘You’ll be able to have $10 per week now for those who hold consuming junk meals’,” says Ms Hemming. “Or, ‘I will provide you with $2 in 2027 for those who change to broccoli’. What do you suppose they will prioritise?”Some power consultants have additionally solid doubt over the enterprise rationale behind inexperienced hydrogen – given the trade remains to be in its infancy and riddled with unknowns.Others fear it may divert funding away from the renewable energy sources which have already confirmed their value, leading to delayed local weather motion.However Mr Grimes says that inexperienced hydrogen will play a necessary position in “stripping emissions” out of Australia’s carbon-intensive mining sector – as corporations search for low-cost inexperienced sources of gasoline to proceed powering their operations.And greater image, he argues that the federal government’s new inexperienced investments must be assessed as “a milestone first step” moderately than an finish level.“The federal government is aware of that if it doesn’t pivot past its exports of coal, fuel and iron ore quickly, Australia dangers turning into the Kodak economic system of the longer term: a giant deal someday and fully irrelevant the subsequent.”Getty ImagesThe Australian economic system has been centered on exporting uncooked supplies for a lot of yearsAustralia isn’t the one nation trying to place itself because the engine room of the brand new inexperienced economic system.Dozens of countries are placing ahead bold proposals, such because the European Union’s Inexperienced Deal or America’s gargantuan Inflation Discount Act.Globally, policymakers have already invested over A$2tn in clear power initiatives since 2020, based on the Worldwide Power Company.However Australia has some compelling pure benefits, akin to enviable wind and photo voltaic capabilities, shops of crucial minerals and uncommon earths, and a robust mining infrastructure community that may be repurposed.If used accurately, all of the consultants the BBC spoke with agreed it has each likelihood of securing its place as a crucial inexperienced buying and selling companion amongst allies.Getting there although, they are saying, would require even larger funding – significantly in analysis and growth, which is at present at 30-year lows.They usually’ve warned that the federal government can’t afford to tug its toes – some extent which Mr Albanese himself has addressed head on.“We have now to get cracking. We have now limitless potential, however we shouldn’t have limitless time.“If we don’t seize this second, it can go. If we don’t take this opportunity, we received’t get one other. If we don’t act to form the longer term, the longer term will form us.”

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