A new discussion paper, the Technology Investment Roadmap, outlines a plan to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution by harnessing low emissions technologies.

The paper, unveiled by the Federal Government, aims to bring a strategic and system-wide view to future investments in low emissions technologies, as well as explore how they may be leveraged in Australia’s recovery from COVID-19.

The plan aims to unlock the potential in technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, soil carbon sequestration, biofuels, resources and energy exports to reduce emissions while strengthening Australia’s economy.

The Federal Government’s focus is to back new and emerging technologies that will:

  • Continue supplying the affordable and reliable energy households and industry need to support jobs and the economy;
  •  Increase the productivity of export sectors like agriculture, energy, metals and minerals processing;
  • Allow Australia to capitalise on opportunities to develop new industries and jobs; and
  • Position Australia to support our trading partners’ plans to reduce emissions through the export of low emissions technologies, energy and other products.

Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said the investment roadmap was about more than just reducing emissions, but also supporting jobs growth, backing new industries that will help regional communities and local economies to prosper, and putting Australia at the forefront of research and development.

Mr Taylor criticised alternative solutions to emissions reduction – including to impose taxes on carbon polluters, and to “sign up to long term targets without a clear plan”, claiming that such approaches would penalise energy-intensive industries and reduce economic activity.

“Australia will play its role on the global stage by partnering with other nations to accelerate technologies with high abatement potential. Reducing emissions in a way that benefits the economy of these countries is the only way to broad agreement on a way forward,” Mr Taylor said.

The roadmap goals will be developed in consultation with industry, researchers and the financial sector, with progress reported through an annual Low Emissions Technology Statement.

The Federal Government has appointed a Ministerial Reference Panel, led by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, to support the development of the first Low Emissions Technology Statement that will be published later in 2020.

The roadmap will be a cornerstone of Australia’s Long Term Emissions Reduction Strategy, to be released ahead of COP26.

The Federal Government will look to support a wide range of technologies with the potential to reduce emissions across sectors. Through the Technology Investment Roadmap process, clear goals will be set for the most important and prospective of these – like the previously advised ‘H2 under $2’ program.

The Federal Government has already made substantial investments in clean energy technology, with more than $10 billion invested in more than 670 clean energy projects with a total project value in excess of $35 billion.

A positive step towards Australia’s future grid: industry

Australia’s energy industry has largely welcomed the roadmap, saying it represents progress towards planning Australia’s future energy grid.

Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said networks were looking forward to continuing to work with the Commonwealth on shaping Australia’s energy transformation.

“A 21st-century energy system cannot continue to rely on 20th-century technology,” Mr Dillon said.

“How our future energy system operates goes well beyond just what will replace coal, and this paper brings to the fore many of those potential technologies.

“As the way we use technology evolves, careful investment in our transmission and distribution systems will be crucial, facilitated by measures such as the Commonwealth Government’s $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund.

“The paper highlights the contribution the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has made to technology development and how a key focus of ARENA’s work is now integrating variable renewable generation into the grid.”

The paper also reinforced the crucial role hydrogen would play in a sustainable energy future, and Mr Dillon said networks around the country were already trialling blending of hydrogen gas into the distribution network.

“A sustainable energy future will involve a combination of electricity and gas, with hydrogen being a key component,” Mr Dillon said.

“Networks are already actively working to harness the huge potential that renewable hydrogen could bring when blended into existing gas networks.

“This work is an important step towards establishing domestic hydrogen use, an essential platform for the development of a viable export industry.”

EY Power & Utilities Leader, Matt Rennie, said the roadmap was a “long overdue discussion” on the future of energy.

“There is no doubt that investment in new technologies is essential for the energy transition,” Mr Rennie said.

“As coal retires from the system, beginning in 2025 when 2.5GW of coal fired power at Liddell ceases, there will be a requirement for large scale baseload power which is reactive to supply and demand. Gas and hydro power provide this reactivity at scale and it is entirely appropriate that Government should be prioritising them.”

Mr Rennie said it was “simply not feasible” for batteries to be built and integrated into the system at a scale that will replace coal fired generation in the short term.

“Batteries are, however, absolutely fundamental for Australia’s long-term energy market. They provide an extremely reactive response to supply and demand issues and are an excellent complement to renewable energy,” he said.

“As part of a balanced portfolio of renewables, coal, gas, hydro, virtual power plants and waste-to-energy, batteries and other storage ensure that peaks can be shifted and assist in a variety of ways to keep costs low and provide electricity where and when it is needed.

“The roadmap must seek to balance the short and medium terms by ensuring sufficient gas supply to bridge immediate gaps, while laying the groundwork for private sector investment in transmission, batteries, renewables, hydrogen, electric vehicles, and other viable new energy sources.

“Part of this is the creation of a regulatory and financial system to enable these new technologies to operate commercially in the market.”

View the Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper here.

Contribute your thoughts on the Roadmap here. Written submissions are open until Sunday 21 June 2020.

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