Tech pathways for decarbonisation led by Climate Change Authority

Brandon How

The Climate Change Authority has been asked to outline the technology transition and emissions pathways that exist across six different sectors that would enable Australia to reach its target of net-zero by 2050.

On Friday, the Climate Change Authority (CCA) said that the federal parliament had requested the review, which would also consider other opportunities and barriers, including workforce matters, information gaps, and the role of public and private finance that could assist or stand in the way of reaching that net zero target.

This includes consideration of pressures on cost and supply chains, as well as the pace of technology commercialisation.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said in August that six industry decarbonisation plans would be produced alongside a carbon leakage policy review, which would consider the feasibility of a carbon border adjustment mechanism, among other options.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen on September 18.

The six sectors that the CCA has been asked to consider are:

  • Electricity and energy
  • Transport
  • Industry and waste
  • Agriculture and land
  • Resources
  • Built environment

The CCA said it “welcomes the opportunity to consult widely and provide advice to government on decarbonisation pathway”.

“Through examining each sector’s opportunities to achieve emissions reductions and barriers that might stand in the way, the sectoral pathways review will outline how Australia could achieve net zero by 2050, and how far sectors could go by 2035,” the CCA said in a statement.

The review outlining the sector pathways to net zero would be delivered to government by 1 August 2024, ahead of its advice on Australia’s 2035 emissions reduction targets which is due on 1 October 2024.

The government has also established a Net Zero Economy Agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet ahead of a legislated Net Zero Authority being established. It aims to help investors and companies as well as regions and communities capitalise on net zero transformation opportunities while supporting workers in emissions-intensive sectors find new employment.

The CCA work gets underway as Mr Bowen released the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment, and Water’s estimate that replacing coal-fired power stations with small modular nuclear reactors would cost $387 billion.

The figure was released on Monday, without the full report, and represents the cost of replacing Australia’s entire retiring coal fleet of 21.3GW, which requires a minimum of 71, 300MW small modular nuclear reactors.

It utilises cost estimates from the GenCost 2022-23 report produced collaboratively by CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator. The Coalition has been advocating for a nuclear-based energy transition as an alternative to the government’s predominantly wind and solar-based energy transition.

The former Coalition government’s plan to deliver net zero by 2050 had been informed by net zero modelling produced by multinational consultancy McKinsey at a cost of more than $6 million. This is the McKinsey study thar estimated that 15 per cent of abatement would come from “future technology breakthroughs”.

In July, Mr Bowen described the former government’s net zero plan as “a fantasy” for assuming that “future technologies will do the heavy lifting without any effort or investment to bring them about.

The award of the modelling contract to McKinsey was also the subject of controversy at the time as it was revealed during Senate estimates that the former government had snubbed a bid by CSIRO to undertake the work.

In a report by the International Energy Agency, around 50 per cent of cumulative emissions reductions to 2050 will be met by electrification, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, hydrogen, and sustainable bioenergy.

It also flags that hydrogen electrolysers, advanced batteries, and direct air capture technology could account for 15 per cent of cumulative emissions over the same period.

The federal government is expected to announce more funding for renewables and renewable manufacturing later this year as a part its response to the US$369 billion committed in the United States government’s Inflation Reduction Act.

When asked by for his perspective on a $100 billion renewables industry package being proposed by a consortium of industry bodes, conservationists, unions, and investor groups, Mr Bowen said he would not be “making budget announcements at this press conference”.

“We had the green Hydrogen Headstart program in the budget, to be acknowledges, that was a deposit, a downpayment, first tranche of the IRA response, we’ve said we’ll have more to say this year and we will,” Mr Bowen said.

An updated national hydrogen strategy is currently being developed, and will consider the potential for using green hydrogen and its derivatives to help reduce emissions in, iron and steel production, agriculture and food, ammonia production, and aviation and other transport applications.

In April, the government released the first National Electric Vehicle Strategy and announced it would finalise fuel efficiency standards by the end of this year.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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