Australia’s energising alliance with the US on renewables

By Melissa Coade

July 14, 2022

Climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen at the 2022 Sydney Energy Forum. (AAP Image/Pool, Jaimi Joy)

Chris Bowen has heralded a new agreement with the US to work together on transitioning to renewable energy sources. 

The collaboration deal between the CSIRO and the US National Renewable Laboratory (NREL) was announced on Tuesday.

“This agreement really is the first step to see Australia and the US working together on key technologies, whether they be hydrogen for long-duration storage, which is a key to getting this transition right or many others, and there’s a lot of expertise to share,” the energy minister told a press conference at the Sydney Energy Forum.

Bowen said Australia’s national science agency, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) would work in partnership with 17 US laboratories. The knowledge-sharing will be with a view to improving how electric vehicles can be integrated into the energy grid as a first step.

US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, who met with Bowen in Sydney for the forum, said she was excited by the energy reform agenda of Australia’s new federal government. Under prime minister Anthony Albanese, she said, she expected a ‘bullish’ approach to ensuring Australia will meet the 43% emissions reduction target by 2030 at a minimum.

“You’ve got incredible assets and the resources and technology that we want to learn from,” Granholm said. 

“I know that we have some resources and technology that would benefit Australia as well, and I can’t tell you how close we are about this partnership.”

Granholm added the 17 various US government agencies in her portfolio had achieved ‘some very difficult technology breakthroughs’ to meet its goals, including driving down the cost of electrolysers for green hydrogen and making renewable energy more dispatchable by making long-duration storage less expensive. 

Work was also being done to prevent and detect methane leaks to avoid greenhouse gasses, she said. 

“We’ve got a very old grid, you’ve got an old grid, as well, we have to both replace existing, as well as expand capacity and make it intelligent. 

“There are technologies that cause components on the grid to speak to one another to be efficient, about where energy is dispatched, in addition to being resilient from extreme weather events, and all of those are issues that we’ll be working on,” Granholm said. 

Bowen confirmed Australia’s 43% emissions reduction by 2030 target was a ‘floor’ goal. He pointed to the language for Australia’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC, which showed the government ‘hoped and expected’ the target could be exceeded. 

“Forty-three per cent is our target but of course, if we can do better that’d be a very good thing,” the minister said.

On Wednesday, Bowen chaired the first Quad Energy Ministers Meeting with counterparts from the US, Japan and India.


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