Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged Australia’s energy sector to seize a once in a generation opportunity to help make the country a renewable superpower, after promising to legislate emissions reduction targets and pour billions into decarbonising the electricity grid.
It follows the market operator and the national science agency confirming renewables remain the cheapest new-build electricity generation option.
But experts say to fully capitalise, an entire portfolio of low emissions technologies are needed alongside a clearer research agenda.
Mr Albanese opened the Sydney Energy Forum on Tuesday by promising a “new era” of climate and energy policy.
“We need to act — and we will act,” Mr Albanese told the invite-only event, co-hosted by the government, the International Energy Agency and the Business Council of Australia.
“We will lay a new foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity. A foundation that will move us from an era of inaction and delay to one where we create new jobs, new industries and drive down emissions.
“This is a matter of urgency.”
The two-day forum is an Australian led Indo-Pacific regional initiative promoting clean energy and the economic opportunities it brings. Mr Albanese said the new government will return Australia to being a “trusted global partner on climate action”.
When the new Parliament sits for the first time later this month Labor will introduce a Climate Change bill that includes legislating a target to reduce emissions to 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050.
The Climate Change minister will also be required to provide updates on progress, which together will provide the “certainty industry and investors need”, Mr Albanese said.
According to co-hosts of the Sydney Energy Forum, the International Energy Agency, around half of the technology to reach net zero already exists but the rest still needs to be developed.
Ahead of the forum, the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) said industry will need a portfolio of low emissions technologies acting in concert and supported by a clear research agenda and policy framework.
The group’s new report said renewables are on track to account for around half of Australia’s electricity generation by 2025 and nearly 70 per cent by 2030.
But to enable more distributed renewable energy and energy storage, Australia’s grid will need a significant upgrade and several more solar and wind generation and storage projects will need to be deployed rapidly.
“Australia has the technologies to avoid a future crisis, but we must act now to lay the foundation of a truly modern energy system,” said ATSE Fellow and former head of engineering and system design at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Alex Wonhas.
“Immediate investment in the deployment of mature technologies, demonstration of emerging technologies and development of grid infrastructure capable of running a renewable energy system is necessary to ensure Australia can meet its unique challenges.”
The AEMO and CSIRO on Monday confirmed Renewables remain the cheapest new-build electricity generation option in Australia, in an annual cost estimate for large-scale electricity generation in Australia.
The GenCost report found renewables again proved the cheaper option even when accounting for additional integration costs arising due to the variable output of renewables, such as energy storage and transmission.
“With the world’s largest penetration of rooftop solar, unique critical energy metals, a world class research sector and a highly skilled workforce, Australia can turn our challenges into the immense opportunity of being a global leader in renewable energy,” CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.
Projections in the report assume that cost reductions for all technologies will stall for the next year due to tight global supply chains yet to recover from the pandemic.
But it predicts when the current inflationary cycle ends, solar, wind, and batteries will keep getting cheaper.
Labor has pledged to invest $20 billion in its ‘Rewiring the Nation’ plan to rebuild and modernise the grid.
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