LA Private

Australia faces $1.5 trillion challenge to achieve 2050 green targets

Australia faces the monumental task of securing $1.5 trillion by the end of the decade to meet its ambitious 2050 green targets, requiring an effort on par with Europe’s post-World War II reconstruction, according to the findings of expert group Net Zero Australia.

The report highlights the need for a new fleet of gas peaking power stations on the east coast to facilitate a smooth transition to renewable energy, ensuring the timely exit of coal-fired power plants from the grid.

Expected to be released on Wednesday, the final report focuses on outlining the necessary steps to ensure Australia stays on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, aligning with the global target.

Business leaders have already warned that Labor’s pledge to triple renewable energy in the grid by 2030 is at risk due to insufficient investment in green power.

The report reveals a significant shortfall in planned and committed renewable energy generation, with nearly 50 gigawatts falling well short of the estimated 230 gigawatts required by 2035.

To bridge this gap, a rapid acceleration of both onshore and offshore wind projects is deemed necessary.

The comprehensive study involved interdisciplinary teams from the University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, Princeton University’s Andlinger Centre for Energy and Environment, and Nous Group, providing a thorough analysis of Australia’s path to achieving net zero carbon emissions.

Robin Batterham, emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Melbourne and chair of the group’s steering committee, emphasises the magnitude of the challenge.

He stresses the importance of considering all available options and keeping them on the table, as prematurely ruling out certain approaches could hinder the deployment of cost-effective solutions.

The economic implications of this transition are immense, with the workforce needed to install and operate new generation assets, transmission lines, and decarbonisation efforts projected to double to at least 200,000 people by 2030 and potentially reach 700,000-850,000 people by 2060, comprising up to 4% of Australia’s total workforce.

The report underscores the need to accelerate decarbonisation efforts, including investment in technology such as gas peaking plants and carbon capture and storage, even if these face resistance from environmental activists.

The establishment of offshore wind projects, particularly in the Bass Strait by 2030, is crucial for securing future power supply.

To fulfil its 2050 commitments, Australia must deploy up to $1.5 trillion by 2030, making the energy transition one of the largest and fastest economic transformations in global history.

The report cautions against relying on future “silver-bullet” technologies, such as small modular nuclear reactors, that are not yet commercially viable, and instead emphasises the importance of utilising existing options to accelerate progress.

The report concludes that Australia must expedite and broaden its decarbonisation efforts, adopting a whole-of-economy approach that encompasses a wide range of options, stronger investment incentives, and a substantial pipeline of renewable energy and transition projects.