To reach net-zero, almost half of the world’s emission reductions will need to come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype stage. Australia’s own net-zero plan relies on the deployment of new technologies to abate 70% of emissions, 30% of which are pre-commercial.
To date, Australia has shown its understanding of the need for innovation, with key wins under our belt such as a high penetration of rooftop and large-scale solar, and developing the cells used within these solar panels. Australia now needs to set a pathway to deploying new technology at the giga-watt and tera-watt scale and activating its commercialisation. It took solar 30 years to be commercialised; technologies such as hydrogen and direct air capture need to be at scale in less than ten years.
Recent modelling demonstrates the confronting scale of infrastructure that needs to be deployed to decarbonise Australia and maintain our position as an energy export power (Figure 1). Our natural resources: sun, lithium, iron, aluminium and importantly, land, present opportunities for great wealth, but cruelly come with some of the greatest challenges for a just and orderly transition such as navigating native title, sourcing labour, having to fully redesign and rebuild infrastructure, and the low readiness level of the technology required.
Figure 1. Australian energy infrastructure map, 2020 and 2050. Source: Net Zero Australia Interim Results. Net Zero Australia projects 1.9 TW of solar PV; 132 GW of onshore wind; and 42GW of offshore wind will need to be deployed to reach net-zero by 2050 and establish a clean energy export industry.