CANBERRA, AAP – International investors will go to rival economies unless the Australian government plans and builds the infrastructure needed by future industries, a think tank warns.
Renewable energy industrial precincts in the Hunter and Gladstone regions could attract $36 billion in investment, support 45,000 new jobs and earn $13 billion in annual revenue by 2032, according to research by Beyond Zero Emissions.
“There are trillions of investment dollars leaving the fossil fuel industry and looking for a new home in renewables and they want the highest return on investment,” Beyond Zero CEO Heidi Lee said on Friday.
Significant benefits could also flow beyond industry, with cheap energy for households and the electrification of transport.
The federal government says companies are already leading the way under its “technology not taxes” approach, and its plans for modern manufacturing and critical minerals.
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But Ms Lee said businesses cannot be expected to plan, fund and build the infrastructure – rail, road, telecommunications and energy – required by the new economy.
Beyond Zero’s new reports call for the federal government to lift its current “modest” level of spending on decarbonisation.
They warn Australia could lose one-third of fossil fuel export revenue over the next two decades unless governments shift gear, especially in regions that have been powerhouses of the economy for centuries.
Gladstone in Queensland was found to be behind NSW’s Hunter region on proposed clean energy supply.
However, building the Hunter transmission capacity for new industry would require $8.5 billion.
The region is already host to Allegro Energy’s redox flow batteries and supercapacitors, Diffuse Energy’s high-powered wind turbines, MGA Thermal bricks and SwitchDin software.
Energy Renaissance is building a battery factory in Tomago.
Tomago Aluminium plans to run on 100 per cent renewables by 2029 while chemical giant Orica, which operates from Kooragang Island, aims to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.
Others are creating and building the next generation of mining and defence electric vehicles.
AGL plans to repurpose its Liddell power station site to become the Hunter Energy Hub with Fortescue Future Industries and renewable companies RayGen and Epuron.
In Gladstone, Fortescue Future Industries intends to manufacture electrolysers, used to make green hydrogen, and then expand into wind turbines, cabling and solar cells.
Rio Tinto plans to decarbonise the Boyne aluminium smelter, supported by the federal Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and is working with Japan’s Sumitomo on a hydrogen pilot.
The NSW government is already developing five Renewable Energy Zones in the regions – Central-West Orana, New England, South-West, Hunter-Central Coast and Illawarra.
Queensland is setting up three similar zones so the state reaches 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
The energy zones combine wind, solar, battery storage and poles and wires to deliver energy to nearby homes, businesses and industries.
The zones are in line with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s planning for a grid no longer reliant on coal to generate electricity.