Re­gion poised to di­ver­sify

Pilbara News - - News - Ben Leahy

The Pil­bara is well po­si­tioned to cap­i­talise on the world’s shift from fos­sil fu­els to so­lar en­ergy, the coau­thor of Curtin Univer­sity’s Pil­bara 2050 sus­tain­abil­ity re­port says.

Curtin pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity Peter New­man is set to tell at­ten­dees at today’s Hed­land Eco­nomic and Re­sources Fo­rum the Pil­bara needs to act now to di­ver­sify its in­dus­try in line with the chang­ing world econ­omy.

“The re­al­ity of the global econ­omy is we are now re­duc­ing rapidly the amount of fos­sil fuel use while in­creas­ing global eco­nomic growth,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor New­man said while iron ore would re­main in de­mand, the Pil­bara’s desert sun­light and ex­ist­ing in­dus­trial and ex­port in­fra­struc­ture pro­vided it with ad­van­tages to cap­i­talise on three shifts in tech­nol­ogy.

The first in­volved the in­creas­ing im­por­tance of lithium over the next 10 to 20 years.

“The lithium rev­o­lu­tion … is im­por­tant for Western Aus­tralia be­cause we are the big­gest pro­ducer of lithium in the world,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor New­man said the next op­por­tu­nity was in so­lar en­ergy and what he called re­new­able gas.

“Perth is now the most so­lar city in the world … 25 per cent of (its) house­holds now have so­lar PVs on their rooftops, so the big­gest power sta­tion in Western Aus­tralia is now rooftop so­lar,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor New­man said he ex­pected a chem­i­cal process that created re­new­able nat­u­ral gas from car­bon diox­ide with so­lar en­ergy act­ing as the cat­a­lyst would also take off.

“That process is be­ing com­mer­cialised with a rapid com­pet­i­tive process in about 20 dif­fer­ent places across the world,” he said.

He said the Pil­bara had the spare in­dus­trial land, sun­light and ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture to cre­ate and either pipe or ex­port this re­new­able gas to mar­kets in WA or around the world. Pro­fes­sor New­man said a third op­por­tu­nity ex­isted in pioneer­ing smallscale re­new­able elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tors or power sta­tions that did not rely on ex­pen­sive and pol­lu­tant diesel.

Pic­ture: Lee Grif­fith

Curtin Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor Peter New­man says the Pil­bara should look to di­ver­sify into re­new­able en­ergy to com­ple­ment its fos­sil fuel re­serves, such as at Wood­side's North West Shelf Gas Project.

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