Australian progress to renewable energy superpower

Banner: A renewables gold rush is on

Australia is becoming a renewable energy superpower.

Judging by Canberra politics alone, climate action is going nowhere, but look deeper. Companies, & Australian state and territory governments are investing in renewable energy to harness Australia’s outstanding sun, wind, & mineral resources. Almost weekly, we see significant developments. It’s like a gold rush has begun, and arguably, Australia is becoming a renewable energy superpower. Let’s look at this progress and what is driving it.

This page offers an overview, linking to more the more detailed pages under “progress” in the menu, including:

  • Progress: State governments are powering into renewable energy
  • Progress: Companies are leaping at renewable energy opportunities
  • Progress: Renewables support our industry: the local refining of our minerals
  • Progress: Exporting renewable energy
  • Progress: Supplying renewable energy equipment and solutions
  • Driver: Renewable energy costs plummeting & big batteries
  • Driver: Australia’s renewable energy advantages

Reasons for promoting climate action by focussing on vision and progress.

Progress: Our states & territories are powering into renewable energy

  • Australia is already using lots of renewable energy.
  • Our States and Territories have ambitious plans to expand renewables.
  • This includes the three states with Liberal governments.

Just one example here, South Australia, with its Liberal government:

  • is already generating 60% of its electricity from wind and sun,
    • has reduced its electricity costs,
    • has increased grid reliability by installing large batteries,
    • reduced emissions,
  • will get to 100% renewables before 2030, and
  • plans to be generating five times more electricity than it uses by 2050 and exporting the surplus.

See: Australian states and territories are powering into renewable energy

Progress: Companies are investing heavily in renewables

  • Companies are reducing power costs by contracting to buy renewable energy.
  • They are also building their own batteries and wind and solar farms.
  • Even the big miners are now investing in renewables.

For example, Sun Metals has built a solar farm to power their zinc refinery in Townsville.

See: Big companies are buying or generating renewable energy

Progress: Developing energy-intensive industries

Banner: Industrialise with renewables

Australia is industrialising based on our renewable energy and mineral resources, e.g., a British businessman saved the Whyalla steelworks from closure to power it with renewable energy and produce green steel. This saved 1,200 jobs at the steelworks, which is the heart of Whyalla.

Australia is developing a:

  • Green steel industry,
  • Green aluminium industry,
  • Green zinc industry,
  • Green manganese industry, and
  • Green hydrogen industry.

See: Cheap renewable energy is bringing more mineral processing in Australia

Progress: Exporting renewable energy

Australia could generate seven times as much renewable energy as we consume and export the surplus.

  • We are already exporting renewable energy, e.g., via our export of aluminium, steel, and zinc, and
  • We have truly massive commercial plans for exporting renewables via:
    • hydrogen or ammonia, and
    • submarine cable to Singapore.

See: The export of renewable energy from Australia

Progress: Supplying equipment and solutions

As the world moves towards renewable energy, Australian enterprises are finding global niches, providing equipment and solutions:

  • exporting electric vehicle chargers,
  • using renewable energy to enable agriculture on barren land,
  • supplying electric power systems for trucks, buses, and even aeroplanes, and
  • pioneering the use of grid-scale batteries.

See: Australia is supplying equipment and solutions

Progress: Australian politics

Increasingly, politicians are explicitly advocating for Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower. Notably, this includes the leader of the federal Labor Party.

Also, the Liberal and National parties’ opposition to renewables is fracturing. All three states with Liberal governments are targeting jobs and wealth via renewable energy.

Drivers of Australia’s transformation

There are many drivers of Australia’s transformation into a renewable energy superpower.

Driver: The renewables revolution

One driver is that we are in the middle of a revolution in renewable energy:

  • the Tesla battery at Hornsdale in South Australia has shown the world that big batteries can perform critical roles in running a grid, and
  • wind and solar generation, with battery storage, now provide the cheapest electricity.

See: The renewable energy revolution

Driver: Australia’s competitive advantages

Map: Global distribution of combined wind and solar generation potential

Another driver of the transformation is that Australia has outstanding wind, sun, and mineral resources, and is benefiting from the renewable energy revolution.

See: Australia’s competitive advantages in the renewables’ era

Driver: The transition is creating quality jobs

  • Building renewable infrastructure is creating jobs for engineers and construction workers.
  • Our emerging industries are creating enduring jobs for salespeople, production planners, and plant operators.

Accelerating the superpower transition would be a sound economic investment and economic stimulus.

(The Million Jobs Plan: Beyond Zero Emissions: 2020)

Driver: National Security

Here are two national security issues that support the move to renewable energy.

Firstly, Australia holds low reserves of petrol, diesel, and jet fuel. A 23-day disruption could see us run out of these fuels. So, it is in our national interest to move to electric and hydrogen fuels, to reduce the vulnerability of our road transport, rail transport, electricity generation, and even farm tractor usage.

(Australia urged to move away from oil dependency or risk fuel supply crisis: The Guardian: 17 July 2019)

Secondly, control of energy resources brings political power. The British built their empire on coal. The Americans built their empire on oil. Why are the democracies leaving the Chinese to build an empire on renewable energy, the energy of this century? We should strive to become a renewable energy superpower in the interests of Australian security.

(China: Beware the green dragon not the red one, Crispin Hull: March 2018)

Driver: International pressure

Japan, South Korea, and China have set net zero-emission targets. As they decrease their use of our fossil fuels, to meet their targets, they will be interested in buying our renewable energy.

(Net-zero: What if Australia misses the moment on climate action: The Guardian: 31 Oct 2020)

International pressure is building on Australia from:

  • the United Nations,
  • Pacific islands nations,
  • the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, and
  • US President-Elect Biden is making climate action a priority.

Driver: Australia is benefiting from the transition

Some suggest that the transition to renewables will damage our economy, but the opposite is true.

The global energy transition is underway. It’s an enormous global wealth-generating opportunity, driven by the plummeting costs of renewable energy. The transition will:

  • lead to a stronger Australian economy as we export renewable energy and become a renewable energy superpower,
  • reduce our carbon emissions,
  • assist other nations to reduce their emissions,
  • slow global warming and so reduce the costs of climate damage, and
  • reduce air pollution and improve health.

For example, by moving to renewable energy, Australia can substantially reduce the enormous costs of importing fossil fuels; the cost was $41 billion in 2014.

It’s in Australia’s economic interest to make this transition.

We can combat climate change, and at the same time, build a stronger economy & society.

2020: A landmark year

The states, business and households have been investing in renewables, making 2020 a landmark year for renewable energy.

(2020 was a landmark year for renewables in Australia: The Guardian: Holmes a Court: 2 Jan 2021)

Australia is becoming a renewable energy superpower

Australia has outstanding renewable energy potential and mineral resources. We certainly have an amazing opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower.

And, as detailed on this site, we are making amazing progress towards this vision:

  • Companies like Sun Cable and Fortescue have leapt at these renewables opportunities.
  • Governments like South Australia and the ACT have made remarkable progress towards the superpower vision, and
  • These two governments, along with NSW, have ambitious plans and explicitly advocate for the superpower vision.

While the Federal government climate wars have distracted people, it seems like a renewable energy gold rush has begun and, arguably, Australia is becoming a renewable energy superpower.

Accelerating the superpower transition

Even though Australia is making large strides towards becoming a renewable energy superpower, we still need to do everything we can to accelerate this transition because climate change is already wreaking havoc.

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Source: Map of wind and solar potential: Beyond Zero Emissions: Renewable Energy Superpower Report

Updated 18 Feb 2021