Australia’s potential for renewable energy generation remains the envy of many nations around the world.

Blessed with an abundance of elements required for clean power, Australia has a wealth of solar, wind, tidal, and even geothermal resources.  

Beneath the surface, we also possess one of the world’s largest reserves of critical minerals used to create clean energy technology.

Australia also has the largest known reserves of zinc, nickel and tantalum alongside the second largest stocks of lithium and cobalt and prolific rare earth minerals.

However, perhaps most importantly, it remains a great place to invest money in energy and mining projects.

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With a long and successful history in both sectors, the island nation is seen with a rosy glow by investors as a safe and profitable place to do business. 


Australia is #1 in the world for installed solar capacity per capita

The Government has clarified its vision around net zero, further supporting investment.

Australia will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2023, with a net zero target by 2050. 

The country is taking a comprehensive approach involving the entire government with an aim to achieve these targets. This includes the introduction of new funding streams and investments in supporting infrastructure.

These factors combined will go a long way to paving Australia’s path towards renewable energy superstardom; however, there are other considerations, too.

For example, Hydrogen has become a significant talking point and focus. What if hydrogen turns out to be more like ‘hopium’, as it’s been called?


Busting the Hydrogen ‘Hopium’

Hydrogen will play a part in the energy transition, but sometimes fact and fiction can overlap.   

While Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, most hydrogen available to us is also tightly bound to other substances, whether fossil fuels or water.  

It can take a lot of energy to break those bonds and free up H2.  

Storing and transporting H2 also involves significant product losses.  

At 75% of the universe by mass, hydrogen is everywhere. It holds great potential, but producing hydrogen requires a LOT of energy, and there may be better solutions for achieving net-zero emissions.


Hydrogen may be the prime candidate when it comes to creating green steel, however

Despite the hype, hydrogen is a powerful tool for green steelmaking, helping to clean up one of the planet’s highest-emitting industries.   

Mining majors and steelmakers worldwide are now moving to adjust their operations toward hydrogen-fueled green steel and away from natural gas or coal.  

While this is a great news story for decarbonisation, there are still issues to overcome before decarbonising global steelmaking is commercially viable.  

For example, the DRI ore pellets used as ‘feed’ for the green steel process must be of a certain quality.  

They currently require a minimum of ~67% iron, high-purity ore, to be economically viable in downstream processing.  

Obtaining ore of this quality requires a concentration step, which adds cost, consumes energy, and typically uses a lot of water.  

Then there is the hydrogen, of which 50kg to 70kg is required for each tonne of ore compared to ~0.8 tonnes of coking coal.


Back to Basics: Wind and Solar Power 

In 2021, Australia’s renewable energy output increased by 10%, primarily due to the new installation of wind and solar plants.

Wind and solar easily eclipse other, more ‘prestigious’ renewable energy sources in terms of bang-for-buck and efficiency, too. 

Australia has the highest household solar adoption rate in the world, with more than 3 million homes currently using rooftop solar panels. 

Solar energy currently accounts for 12% of the energy supplied to the national electricity market, making Australia the 7th largest producer of solar energy in the world.


When it comes to wind, the scene is equally as impressive.

Wind power accounted for over 11% of electricity in Australia’s national market in 2021, with 21 large-scale wind projects currently under construction.

When you add in ever-improving battery storage technology, wind and solar power can extend into times when the ‘sun don’t shine’ and the ‘wind don’t blow’.

In a major milestone, during periods throughout the year, solar and wind now combine to generate more than enough electricity to power all Australian households, plus about 10 million more.

That’s not to say that coal isn’t still central to our energy generation—it is—but the trajectory for renewable energy is heading in one direction. 

While the above figure is striking, domestic industries consume the lion’s share of electricity in Australia.  

Combined, Australia’s four aluminium smelters use over 10% of the electricity from the National Electricity Market, the country’s primary grid. 

To combat carbon emissions, it is imperative that the energy transition extends into all areas of Australia. 


The Role of Critical Minerals and Summary

Every day, it seems that another critical minerals startup appears in Australia.

Many countries wish for this luxury, but it is simply another aspect of Australia’s incredible mineral wealth.

Australia’s advanced resources industry is also at the forefront of the economy’s decarbonisation effort, helping us convert natural endowments, including critical minerals, into renewable energy success.

With a renewed focus on downstream processing rather than raw material exports, Australia can harness further opportunities while adding value to its products.

The critical minerals mining and processing industries are also bolstered by the government’s commitment to and support of a clean energy future.

With an investment of $24.9 billion over the decade, policymakers are prioritising climate change and energy transformation issues, including:

  • Transforming Australia’s electricity supply to run primarily on renewable energy sources
  • Aiming to support the growth and expansion of clean energy industries, promoting the development of new and innovative technologies that can contribute to a sustainable future
  • Supporting the decarbonisation of existing industries and transportation networks. 

As we have seen, Australia remains in the driver’s seat when it comes to harnessing its mineral resources and renewable energy potential to become a true clean energy superpower. 

With the right business conditions and industry support, we may be on the cusp of a brave new world, moving on from mining and commodity exports to global energy and technology leadership. 


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