Technology the key to a low-emissions Australia

Monday, 05 October 2020

The Low Emissions Technology Statement released on September 22 addresses the biggest global challenge of our era – how to reduce emissions quickly while supporting economic growth.

According to Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, the low-emissions statement positions Australia to be a leader in the global shift to a decarbonised future.

It also sets a path for Australia to capture the economic benefits of the growing international demand for low-emissions technologies and products.

“For Australia to dramatically reduce emissions while maintaining our prosperity, we need a concrete and realistic plan,” Dr Finkel says.

“This means developing and adopting low-emissions technologies that can cost-effectively replace high-emissions incumbents. These low-emissions technologies will underpin our success in agriculture, transport, industry, the built environment and electricity supply.”

Dr Finkel led the Ministerial Reference Panel that advised the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, in preparation of the statement. It will feed in to the government’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Strategy being prepared for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, along with the National Hydrogen Strategy and other work to transform Australia’s electricity network and reduce emissions.

Technology is the key to Australia reducing emissions and maintaining a prosperous economy.

The statement sets five priority low-emissions technologies, and identifies a “stretch goal” for each, which is the price at which each technology becomes competitive with the high-emissions incumbent technologies.

The priority technologies with their stretch goals are:

  • Clean hydrogen: Under $2 a kilogram, at which point it will be competitive as a transport fuel, for firming solar and wind electricity, and for producing ammonia.
  • Electricity storage (batteries and pumped hydro): Delivering firmed electricity under $100 per MWh, to support increased use of solar and wind electricity at pricing at or below today’s average wholesale price.
  • Low carbon materials: Low-emissions steel under $900 a tonne, and aluminium under $2700 a tonne.
  • Carbon capture and storage: $20 a tonne for carbon-dioxide compression, hub transport and storage. CCS provides a pathway for hard-to-abate industries such as cement production, could be used to store carbon dioxide drawn down by plants or by direct capture from the atmosphere, and could enable the use of our fossil-fuel reserves to produce clean hydrogen, alongside hydrogen from renewable electricity and water.
  • Measuring soil carbon: Under $3 a hectare, substantially reducing the cost of measuring soil carbon and thus removing a barrier to the adoption of widespread soil sequestration.

To choose the five priorities, the Ministerial Reference Panel began with 140 technologies identified in 2019, whittling them down to five after widespread consultation. In doing this, four criteria were key: technologies that had large abatement potential, that had large economic significance, that could build on Australia’s comparative advantages, and where government investment could make a difference in bringing costs down.

A Low Emissions Technology Statement will be tabled each year, tracking progress and responding to the fast-changing environment of emerging technologies.

Dr Finkel finishes his five-year term as Chief Scientist in December 2020, but will continue to chair the Technology Investment Advisory Council, which replaces the Ministerial Reference Panel. The council, which now also includes the chairs of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Clean Energy Regulator, will review technologies in the roadmap each year. Dr Finkel will also continue as the Australian Government’s Hydrogen Adviser.


Interested? Read more:

The economy will keep ticking as we turn back climate clock: An article by Dr Alan Finkel published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 September 2020 on the Low Emissions Technology Statement

Orderly Transition to the Electric Planet: Dr Alan Finkel’s National Press Club address of 12 February 2020, after the release of the National Hydrogen Strategy


Last updated: Friday, 18 December 2020