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Australia eyes green transformation with renewables, hydrogen
Australia has the unique opportunity to accelerate the transition to a renewable economy while creating new jobs for communities dependent on coal extraction, according to two new studies by leading NGOs.
The first report: Start with steel: A practical plan to support carbon workers and cut emissions finds that Australia can use wind and solar to make energy-intensive ‘green’ commodities, such as green steel, aviation biofuel and ammonia.
The document’s authors, analysts from public policy think tank the Grattan Institute, claim that steel represents the best opportunity for exports and job creation in key regions, such as central Queensland and Hunter Valley, New South Wales (NSW).
The Institute argues that such a strategy could solve Australia’s ‘climate conundrum’, simultaneously reducing emissions and reliance on fossil fuels whilst providing training and new job opportunities for ‘carbon workers’ – who are concentrated in the key regions.
‘Climate change is a wicked conundrum for Australia,’ said Tony Wood, Energy Program Director at the Grattan Institute. ‘It’s a threat to our health and to our agriculture and tourism industries – but tens of thousands of Australians work in industries that rely on fossil fuels.’
The report points to rapid reductions in the cost of renewable energy, which has given Australia a competitive advantage. The country has 4mn km2 of high-quality land for coexisting wind and solar power – four times higher than in North America.
In early May, the Clean Energy Council (CEC), the country’s renewable energy trade association, outlined a plan to bring forward hundreds of approved utility-scale wind and solar projects as a means of leading the country’s recovery from COVID-19.
According to the CEC, accelerating the development of these plants could deliver over $50bn of investment, more than 30 GW of generating capacity and more than 50,000 direct jobs in construction, along with many more indirect jobs.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency recently announced it had allocated $1.7mn for a study by BP Australia to assess the feasibility of building a renewable hydrogen and ammonia production facility in Geraldton, Western Australia.
Under the study, BP would use grid connected power and procure renewable electricity through a power purchase agreement. Renewable hydrogen would then be used instead of natural gas to produce renewable ammonia.