Govt unveils energy tech investment priorities

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The federal government will focus the bulk of its investment aimed at reducing emissions in priority technologies like clean hydrogen and carbon capture rather than renewable energy technologies.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor delivered his first Low Emissions Technology Statement, providing an investment framework for where an estimated $1.9 billion over 10 years for new energy technologies will go.

“History shows that we solve hard problems through enterprise and innovation. The global race to reduce emissions will be no exception. That’s why the government’s emissions reduction strategy is focused on technology not taxes,” Mr Taylor said.

The government has split the energy technologies into four categories: priority low emissions technologies, emerging and enabling technologies, watching brief technology and mature technologies.

Angus Taylor
Angus Taylor: Unveils the Australian tech roadmap for low emissions energy

The large bulk of the government’s investment will go into priority low emissions technologies including clean hydrogen, energy storage, low carbon materials and carbon capture.

The Commonwealth will largely avoid providing funding to mature technologies such as solar, wind, coal and gas except when there is a clear market failure, or it is needed to save jobs.

Emerging technologies have been classed as those with “transformative potential” but requiring continuing monitoring of global learning and research and investment trends.

The government has included infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging and refuelling stations, energy management systems and digital infrastructure in this category.

The section also includes enabling technologies such as smart meters, inverters and micro-grids.

The watching brief category is for technologies with transformative potential but still in the very early stages, such as small modular reactors, and zero emissions drive-trains.

With the update, the Coalition has still refused to sign on to the widely accepted net zero emissions target by 2050 and has been widely criticised by a range of environmental and climate change-focused groups.

The Opposition said the tech investment roadmap is “useful”, but shadow energy minister Mark Butler said it is not a real energy and emissions reduction policy.

“There’s nothing in this roadmap that hasn’t been very well understood for years. To make an actual difference to Australian households and businesses you don’t need a description of technology that’s happening in the private sector around the world, you need an energy policy,” Mr Butler said.

“You need investment rules that will actually see this technology built rather than just be written about.”

Independent MP Zali Steggall said the roadmap “takes a wrong turn” and is “insufficient to drive the emissions reduction Australia needs”.

“The government is taking us on a detour. The roadmap is not the most efficient or economic way of reducing emissions, and not the way it delivers the most jobs,” Ms Steggall said.

“This is not a roadmap, but a historical sightseeing tour of technologies like carbon capture and storage, that have cost a lot and delivered little,” she said.

“We know what is delivering emissions reduction and that is renewables. Just last year the cost of renewables dropped by 26 per cent.

“They are the cheapest and most effective way of reducing emissions, but the government has overseen a flatlining of investment that is likely to continue with this announcement.”

The Climate Council has said it has “strong concerns” with the tech strategy, and the focus should be on renewable energy.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has also criticised the government announcement for a lack of focus on renewables.

“Promoting new clean technologies can cut climate pollution, but Australia’s roadmap should be guided by science-based medium and long-term emissions targets to drive investment and track performance. Renewable energy is left out in the cold by this roadmap,” the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

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