Region poised to diversify
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.
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.