According to modeling released on Thursday, Australia will need to invest at an unprecedented rate and scale in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage in order to attain net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
According to the Net Zero Australia project, the country will need around 40 times the total generation capacity of today’s national power market to attain this objective by 2050, comprising 1,900 GW of solar and 174 GW of onshore and offshore wind capacity.
That level of capacity would necessitate five areas nearly the size of Ireland each across northern Australia to house solar arrays paired with electrolysers to produce green hydrogen – hydrogen produced using renewable energy – for export, according to the project’s interim findings for a study set to be completed in 2023.
The initiative is a collaboration between the Universities of Melbourne, Queensland, Princeton University, and Nous Group, and is supported by sponsors such as Worley Group (WOR.AX), APA Group (APA.AX), and billionaire Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation.
“Our findings show there’s no two ways about it – to meet net zero by 2050, Australia must transform,” said Net Zero Australia Steering Committee Chair and former Australian Chief Scientist Robin Batterham in a statement.
“Major and long-term investment is required in new renewable generation, electricity transmission, hydrogen supply chains, and more,” he said.
The volume of investment envisaged is substantially larger than that detailed by Australia’s energy market operator in its hydrogen superpower scenario, which is roughly seven times current grid demand.
To replace Australia’s coal and gas sales, two of the country’s largest export earners, with clean energy exports in 2050, electricity generation would have to be increased by 8 to 15 times current levels, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the report.
“Remember, the majority of that is for the rest of the world, not for us…. That should be paid for by someone else, not by us. Others should offer a lot of technical know-how and possibly even a lot of labor “Michael Brear, one of the report’s authors, stated at the study’s public launch.
Green hydrogen, green ammonia, and cable power might replace coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, which would be critical for a country that is a big coal and LNG exporter.
“We stand to gain large export revenues and a million new Australian jobs, if exported energy stays around today’s level,” Batterham said in a statement.
Over the following year, the research will delve into land difficulties, water availability, and traditional owner concerns as it examines potential barriers to rapid growth of solar and wind farms and transmission.