Low cost hydrogen, long duration energy storage, low carbon materials such as steel or aluminium, carbon capture and storage and low cost soil carbon measurement have emerged as key areas of focus under the Commonwealth Government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions and deliver affordable and reliable energy which will generate employment.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor has released the Government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement – the first milestone in its Australian Technology Investment Roadmap.

The statement outlines five technologies which are seen as priorities along with stretch goals which it says are needed to make these as effective as existing technologies.

These include:

  • Hydrogen production under $2 per kilogram.
  • Long duration energy storage (6-8 hours or more) dispatched at less than $100 per MWh to enable reliable, firmed wind and solar at prices around the average wholesale electricity price of today.
  • Low carbon materials – low emissions steel production under $900 per tonne, low emissions aluminium under $2,700 per tonne.
  • CCS – CO₂ compression, hub transport, and storage under $20 per tonne of CO₂.
  • Soil carbon measurement under $3 per hectare per year – 90 percent lower than today’s measurement costs.

In its statement, the Government outlined eleven areas for action.

A critical part of this will be the establishment of a Technology Investment Framework which will prioritise Government investments in new technologies.

As part of this framework, technologies will be priorities and grouped into four categories:

  • Priority low emissions technologies which have potentially transformative economic and abatement impacts. These include the five mentioned above.
  • Emerging and enabling technologies which have transformative potential but required continued monitoring of global research and learning. Some examples include vehicle charging and refuelling infrastructure, next generation solar PV, low emissions heat, waste-to-energy recycling, low emissions ammonia, low emissions cement and hydrogen enabled appliances.
  • Watching brief technologies which have transformative potential where international developments will be monitored and supporting infrastructure needs assessed. Examples include small module reactors, zero emission drivetrains, low emissions aircraft, low carbon building materials and building integrated PV (e.g. solar PV tiles).
  • Mature technologies which are existing and proven such as coal, gas, solar and wind.

In respect of the last category, the Government acknowledges that mature technologies comprise the overwhelming majority of Australia’s energy generation and will continue to play a critical role going forward.

They are not the focus of this paper, however, as this concentrates on accelerating uptake or new and emerging technology.

For the most part, the Government will leave investment in existing mature technologies to the private sector and will limit its own investment to where there are strategic initiatives with clear market failure – like a shortage of dispatchable generation – or where these investments secure jobs in key industries.

Other actions include:

  • Investing $1.9 billion into a new energy technology package; establishing Australia’s first regional hydrogen export hub, a King Review Co-Investment Fund, a CCS Deployment Fund and a Future Fuels Fund to support new and emerging technologies.
  • Finalising new or revised Emissions Reduction Fund methods to support CCS and soil carbon within 12 months.
  • Commencing a soil carbon innovation challenge to rapidly reduce the cost of measuring the impact of new farming practices on soil carbon sequestration.
  • Introducing legislative reforms to ARENA and the CEFC to give their boards flexibility to respond to the Government’s priorities.
  • Requiring key agencies (ARENA, CEFC and the CER) to focus on accelerating the priority technologies.
  • Directing key agencies to publicly report on what action they are taking to accelerate the priority technologies.
  • Establishing a permanent Technology Investment Advisory Council, including the Chairs of key agencies, to advise on the development of the second Annual Statement. Annual Statements are the mechanism the Government will use to guide, track and measure the impact of our investments in new energy technologies.
  • Expanding Australia’s international collaboration with trading partners.
  • Conducting a review of legislative or regulatory barriers to technology uptake as part of the second annual Low Emissions Technology Statement.
  • Completing the development of Australia’s Long Term Emissions Reduction Strategy before COP26.

In a statement, Tayler said the plan would avoid 250 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and would support up to 130,000 jobs by 2030.

“If these technologies achieve widespread deployment globally, they will significantly reduce emissions from energy, transport, agriculture and heavy industry,” Taylor said.

“These sectors account for 90 per cent of global emissions and emit 45 billion tonnes each year.

“The Government expects to invest more than $18 billion in low emissions technologies over the decade to 2030, in order to drive at least $50 billion of new investment over the next ten years.”

The Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) welcomed the roadmap, saying it represented the first-step toward Australia being a leader in low-emission technology.

In particular, the Academy welcomed the continued support for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the focus upon hydrogen.

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said the release of Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap and the $18 billion investment in low-emissions technology over the next decade is an important commitment from the Australian Government to a low emission future and a global leadership role for Australia.

“The focus on research, development and investment in low-carbon technology is essential to ensure Australia’s prosperity and resilience in the face of climate change,” Walker said.

“We welcome the announcement that the Ministerial Reference Panel chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel FTSE will become the Technology Investment Advisory Council, and that Dr Finkel will also be joined by Drew Clarke FTSE on that panel.

“ATSE sees enormous potential for Australia to be a global leader in using technology to solve complex problems, such as climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“A great example is the commercialisation of green steel, in which Australia was first in the world, and ATSE is pleased to see this technology being supported to scale in this roadmap, along with hydrogen exports and energy storage.

“While renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar are now cheaper and more reliable than ever. ATSE urges the government to continue to support their deployment through investments in energy system stability and reliability.”