These statements are simply a cover for an ongoing failure to take action to accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity supply sector which, at nearly 34% of economy-wide emissions, remains Australia’s single largest source of carbon pollution.
The so called ‘Technology Roadmap’ will apparently focus on hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and advanced livestock feed supplements. Its emphasis is stated to be on leveraging private sector R&D investment with limited government financial support.
While some of these technologies do deserve substantially increased government assistance (notably green hydrogen, lithium resource development and feedstock substitutions) this should not be at the expense of shifting the focus away from the decarbonisation of electricity supply.
Carbon emissions from electricity are the single largest source of emissions in the Australian economy, and with the grid dominated by coal and gas power (80% of total generation) there is a lot of heavy lifting still to be done. Although utility scale wind and solar is now cheaper than new-build coal, gas or nuclear, the need to deliver firmed clean electricity must be prioritised. Doing so will provide for the decarbonisation of other sectors, such as heavy industrial manufacturing and processing, whilst also maintaining system security and reliability.
Renewable energy technologies such as concentrating solar systems (which can deliver dispatchable solar energy for extended multi-hour periods), smaller distributed pumped hydro projects and micro-grid technology platforms for rooftop solar should become higher priorities for the government. Similarly, urgent regulatory and policy reform should be addressed in order to overcome existing grid congestion and constraints. The rapid development of new transmission infrastructure to unlock Australia’s largely untapped renewable energy zones is critical.
The real concern with Angus Taylor’s roadmap approach is that it really is just a cover for not doing much at all on electricity emissions. Instead, it will lock in the incumbent gas and coal-fired generation portfolio for as long as possible, rather than facilitating their quick and orderly exit from the market.
The first step in reducing our carbon emissions is to power our electricity supply sector with clean, 100% renewable energy. Only then can we urgently reduce our nation’s carbon footprint to a level that the Paris Agreement and the world’s scientific community have repeatedly stated is vital for a safe climate future.