Transition is nation’s chance to become an energy superpower
AUSTRALIA invented the modern solar panel back in the 1980s and today we have the highest uptake of rooftop solar in the world.
You would expect that many of these panels would be manufactured here. Sadly, that is not the case.
We were poised to become a leading manufacturer and exporter of this game-changing technology. Instead, Australia today manufactures less than 1 per cent of the world’s solar panels. This was a spectacular mistake we cannot afford to repeat.
Transitioning the world to clean energy represents trillions of dollars of investments in new technologies, infrastructure, commodities and fuel supplies. Analysis by the International Energy Agency estimates the global investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment will reach $US28 trillion by 2035.
Australia is perfectly positioned to benefit. With our vast landmass, highly skilled workforce and rich deposits of lithium and other minerals needed for batteries and other clean energy technologies, we have all the resources not only for our own domestic energy supply, but to become a leading energy export superpower.
With the right government support and policy frameworks, Australia could generate $89 billion in new trade and create 395,000 new jobs by 2040. And it is regional communities that will see the greatest jobs growth. Several major projects are underway to build facilities that will harness our wind and sunshine to create clean hydrogen. And, if we are proactive, we could capture a large piece of the growing global demand for renewable iron and green aluminium.
We could build onshore refineries powered by renewables to create jobs and substantially increase the value we derive from Australia’s rich deposits of lithium, copper and nickel.
However, we must act fast because the window is closing. Collaboration is needed between governments and the private sector.
Innovators and investors need a supportive policy environment, access to capital and assistance in setting up new clean energy ventures.
Unlike other countries, Australia’s energy transition needn’t be characterised by sacrifice and trade-offs. Nicky Ison is Energy Transition Manager at WWF-Australia