Australia to Become a 'Clean Energy Superpower'

Australia to Become a 'Clean Energy Superpower'
Woodside's North West Shelf Gas Venture near Karratha in the north of Western Australia on Jun. 17, 2008. (Greg Wood/AFP via Getty Images)

The Australian government is looking to make the country a world leader in renewable energy with a billion-dollar investment package for new energy technologies.

Announcing the package on Sept. 17, Prime Minister Scott Morrison explained that the government would be providing $1.9 billion in investment for future renewable technologies that will help generate jobs and cut household costs while at the same time stabilising and securing our energy supply.

According to package, the government reforms will aid the creation of the new hydrogen industry, the production of green or low carbon steel and aluminium, and the development of new carbon capture technologies like soil carbon sequestration.

It will also provide more an estimated $300 million towards pilot carbon capture projects, electric and bio-fueled vehicles, and regional energy microgrids that will help provide reliable and affordable power.

"Australia is in the midst of a world-leading boom in renewable energy with over $30 billion invested since 2017," Morrison said.

"The government will now focus its efforts on the next challenge: unlocking new technologies across the economy to help drive down costs, create jobs, improve reliability, and reduce emissions," the prime minister added. "This will support our traditional industries—manufacturing, agriculture, transport—while positioning our economy for the future."

Facilitating the technological boom, the government will be expanding the focus of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) so that it, along with the Clean Energy Regulator, can deploy a portion of the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.

ARENA will also now get a baseline funding of $1.43 billion over ten years giving it the ability to invest in new technologies that will cut emissions in agriculture, manufacturing, industry, and transport. It will also receive $193 million in grants for targeted programs.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller welcomed the government's announcement on Sept.17 saying the government recognition of its work would usher in a new era for ARENA.

"There is still much work to be done, but with an experienced team, industry knowledge, and strong networks across a range of technologies and sectors, ARENA is well-positioned to support Australia's energy transformation and emissions reduction goals," Miller said.

Other significant investment programs in the package include:
  • The $95.4 million Technology Co-Investment Fund to encourage businesses to adopt new technologies that increase productivity and reduce emissions.
  • The $50 million Carbon Capture Use and Storage Development Fund to establish pilot programs around Australia
  • A $74.5 million Future Fuels Fund to encourage the use of hydrogen, electric, and bio-fuelled vehicles
  • A $70.2 million a hydrogen export hub to scale-up demand and take advantage of the advancements in this low emissions, high powered source of energy
Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said: "The government recognises the strong growth in emerging energy technologies that will play a role in Australia's energy mix into the future."

"We will reduce the cost of new and emerging technologies, not raise the cost of existing technologies or layer in new costs to consumers and businesses through mandated targets or subsidies."

Traditional renewables like solar and wind power will not be part of the new package as the government believes they are now commercially viable.

The peak body of the renewable industry, the Clean Energy Council, was quick to support the federal government's move, stating: "These initiatives will ensure Australia can take advantage of its enormous opportunity to become a clean energy superpower."

"This commitment will ensure support for energy storage and renewable energy research, allow major industries to explore opportunities to adopt renewable energy and provide longer-term certainty to the development of a world-leading hydrogen industry," said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

However, national Labor Leader Anthony Albanese disagreed with Thornton's assessment arguing that the Morrison funding to ARENA would weaken the agency.

"They have tried to abolish it, and now they are trying to emasculate it," he said. "The fact is that this government don't support renewables."

The Australia Institute (TAI) concurred with Albanese, arguing that the package would force agencies like ARENA to fund fossil fuel technology.

"The government champions clean hydrogen which is just clean coal 2.0, using the same failed technology of carbon capture and storage to support the same high-polluting fuels of coal and gas," said Richie Merzian director of Climate and Energy at TAI.

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.