The federal government is offering $566 million to global experts who want to collaborate with Australia on clean energy projects, with ‘green steel’, battery storage and even research on nuclear fission reactors among the possible options.
As he prepares to join world leaders at US President Joe Biden’s climate summit, despite still not yet committing to a net-zero emissions by 2050 target, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes his latest energy fund will encourage other nations to join partnerships Down Under.
“We’ll work closely with our friends and neighbours to play our part in the global effort to cut emissions through technology while driving economic growth, creating jobs and pushing down energy costs,” said Mr Morrison in comments circulated by his office on Wednesday before an official announcement on Thursday.
On the heels of a $1 billion energy initiative in South Australia and $500 million for hydrogen and carbon storage, Mr Morrison’s latest announcement is $565.8 million to encourage “new international technology partnerships” in low-emissions technology.
The strategy is to stimulate investment in Australian projects, with hopes up to 2500 jobs could be created through co-funding research and trial projects in five priority areas, according to the Prime Minister’s office:
- Clean hydrogen;
- Low-cost energy storage for solar and wind;
- ‘Green steel’ and aluminium products to be produced at lower emissions;
- Carbon capture;
- Soil carbon projects.
These are hoped to include iron ore and steel produced at low or zero emissions, technology to measure emissions from livestock, and research into ‘small modular reactor’ technology that uses nuclear fission.
Mr Morrison said on Wednesday he hoped Australia could be a hydrogen superpower, claiming the NSW Central Coast could become ‘hydrogen valley’.
With Australia nearly alone among our allies and major trading partners in resisting a formal net-zero commitment by 2050, Mr Morrison would hope the pledge would be somewhat of an olive branch to other leaders before Mr Biden’s landmark climate meeting on Thursday (US time), and help drive global co-operation on energy innovations.
The government says Energy Minister Angus Taylor and the government’s special adviser for low-emissions technologies, Alan Finkel, are already working to encourage foreign nations to sign up to Australian projects.
“Australia won’t be able to make these technologies globally scalable and commercially viable all on our own,” Mr Taylor said.
Mr Morrison said discussions were ongoing with the US, Britain, Japan, Korea and Germany.
He hoped such partnerships could lead to foreign co-investments of between $3 and $5 for every $1 stumped up by the federal government.
“The world is changing and we want to stay ahead of the curve by working with international partners to protect the jobs we have in energy-reliant businesses, and create new jobs in the low-emissions technology sector,” Mr Morrison said.
The PM again spruiked his commitment to reaching emissions reductions through “technology not taxes”, claiming it wasn’t necessary to “shut down” high-emitting industries.
“As we look to take advantage of these new export opportunities, we won’t look to reduce our own emissions by shutting down our existing export industries like agriculture, aluminium, coal and gas,” he said.
Mr Taylor said the government’s roadmap had the potential to dramatically cut emissions from some of the most polluting industries.
“Getting new energy technologies to parity will enable substantial reductions in global emissions – in both developing and developed countries – and ensure countries don’t have to choose between growth and decarbonisation,” he said.
Dr Finkel, Australia’s former chief scientist, said it was crucial governments supported new technologies through investment, saying the cost of low-emissions tech could be prohibitive – what he called a “green premium”. He said the Technology Investment Roadmap aimed to tackle this.
‘‘The goal of the roadmap is to help industry to scale up to convert the green premium into a green discount, thereby ensuring a future low-cost, low-emissions economy,’’ Dr Finkel said.
‘‘Collaboration with other like-minded countries on development and deployment will help achieve this goal.
“Focused partnerships with other like-minded countries on development and deployment of low-emissions technologies will accelerate their adoption.”
Mr Morrison will join Mr Biden’s climate summit on Thursday.
Labor claims Australia will be embarrassed on the world stage, but Mr Morrison has hinted toward the 2050 target being on the cards.
He also promised to “ramp up” energy projects before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.