Address to Future Energy Forum
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I am proud to lead a Government that will give every Australian the opportunity to vote Yes for Recognition, Listening and Better Results on the 14th of October.
I’d like to thank News Corp for this opportunity to come together and talk about the better future that’s within our reach – and what we need to do to ensure we grasp it.
Right now, the global shift to clean energy is Australia’s biggest opportunity for growth and prosperity.
If we act now – and get this right – we can power the world with our skills, our regions and, crucially, our resources.
Our great fortune is that the building blocks of the clean energy future are right here – whether it’s lithium, cobalt, copper, rare earths or critical minerals.
And just as our continent is blessed with an abundance of wind and sunshine, we have the minerals to build the wind turbines and the solar panels that convert them into electricity.
My Government’s vision is for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower, which will in turn help us to become an advanced manufacturing powerhouse.
It all sits at the heart of our plan to build a stronger, more resilient economy for Australia’s future.
A strong economy makes a better future possible – and energy is the spark that drives it.
The jobs, the communities, the cities, the industries, the very country that we want to create are all intertwined with how we tackle energy.
Energy security is economic security.
Energy security is job security.
Energy security is national security.
Growth in the regions.
New jobs in the suburbs.
A stronger manufacturing sector.
A better deal for our farmers and exporters.
Every one of those opportunities relies on a government prepared to do what it takes to get the energy transition right.
We’re here today because business understands this.
You get how crucial energy policy is in driving all we want and need to achieve for Australians. And how important it is that the transition is responsibly managed.
Bringing new sources of energy and new technology into the mix, all the while ensuring that Australian household and businesses have the reliable, affordable power they need.
It is emblematic of the approach our Government takes across the board – addressing immediate pressures and identifying long-term opportunities.
When it comes to the great spectrum of opportunities presented by transition, it’s worth revisiting the words of Woodside Energy CEO Meg O’Neil:
“I’ve worked around the world in the energy industry and … no country is better placed to succeed in the energy transition than Australia. … We should be an energy superpower for a decarbonising world.”
That is the future we can create. It is the future we must create.
Right now, many Australians are feeling the pressure of higher power bills. Much of this is the result of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, which has created short-term pressures but also exposed a decade of neglect.
A decade during which the previous government didn’t manage a single coherent energy policy.
A decade during which Australia’s population grew by 3 million, but we actually lost 3000 megawatts of dispatchable power.
A decade during which 24 coal-fired power stations announced their closures, and eight coal-fired power stations were closed, and the then government did nothing.
A government that went so far as to cover up power price rises before an election.
Last year, Australians voted for change, and they voted for solutions.
That’s why we acted in December in partnership with the states and territories to shield consumers from the worst impacts of predicted energy price spikes.
Indeed, the Australian Energy Regulator’s data shows that coal and gas price caps have halved the electricity price increases.
It’s why more than five million households and one million small businesses became eligible for Energy Price Relief Rebates from 1 July – a $3 billion commitment delivered in partnership with the states and territories.
In addition to targeted energy bill relief, the Government is funding a $1.6 billion Energy Savings Plan to ensure households and communities can take advantage of the savings from smarter energy use.
Australia’s clean energy transition is crucial for reducing emissions and addressing climate change.
In both of these ambitions, we can – as we so often do – punch above our weight.
Some argue that because Australia represents just 1 per cent of global emissions, our contribution to fighting climate is too small to make a difference.
But we have never been a country content to settle for the bare minimum. As Professor Ross Garnaut has made clear, if Australia becomes a renewable energy superpower, we have the potential to cut up to an additional 7 per cent.
So investing in renewables is good for cheaper power here, but it also means we can cut the equivalent of India’s entire emissions last year.
My Government’s landmark Safeguard Mechanism reforms provide certainty on Australia’s emissions reduction trajectory and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 205 million tonnes to 2030.
That’s the emissions equivalent of two-thirds of Australia’s cars over the same period.
Our electricity generation mix is changing. Renewables accounted for 35 per cent of generation across the National Energy Market in the year to March 2023 – up nearly 20 per cent on the previous 12 months.
Across the world, renewables now account for 30 per cent of global electricity generation.
Last year, investment in clean energy reached a record $2.5 trillion in 2022, up nearly 15 per cent from 2021. That is a significant demonstration of continued confidence in the energy transition.
A confidence reinforced by discussion at the G20 meeting in India last weekend.
The key example of the growth in clean energy investment is solar, which in 2023 is set to attract more capital than global oil production for the first time. And no one is as rich in sunshine as we are.
I want to turn to one aspect of the clean energy future that is so rapidly morphing into the clean energy present.
Global sales of electric vehicles grew by 55 per cent in 2022, reaching a record high of more than 10 million.
In Australia, electric car sales in the first half of the year were up 121 per cent on 2022.
It seems like only yesterday that my predecessor said electric cars would destroy the weekend. Surely the first person to suggest the apocalypse would come wearing a Tesla badge.
The former government had an ideological set against them.
My Government wants to make them more affordable as a family car, just like we’re working to make rooftop solar more affordable.
That’s why we legislated tax cuts to make EVs cheaper for Australian families.
The electric vehicle revolution goes on. It is a revolution that runs on lithium – as does the revolution in batteries used to power mobile phones, homes and provide grid-scale energy storage.
Just as this good news for the world, it is a great opportunity for Australia. We are the world’s largest producer of lithium today.
It’s worth reminding ourselves just how swift the pace of change has been.
When I was Deputy Prime Minister ten years ago, no one was raising lithium with me – or for that matter nickel or vanadium. All resources that we have in abundance in Australia. If they were on the fringe then, they’re certainly not now.
By the end of this decade, demand for electric vehicle battery materials is expected to grow five-fold and will require the equivalent of 50 new lithium mines, 60 new nickel mines and 17 new cobalt mines, worldwide.
By 2027-28, the export value of Australian lithium and base metals is expected to equal the combined value of thermal and metallurgical coal.
Australia’s annual lithium production could be used to make 8.2 million batteries a year – equivalent to more than a third of all cars in Australia.
But we cannot be content with simply sending it overseas for others to make the batteries. That’s like producing pristine blank pages for someone else to write their story. I know we can write our own. And we will.
Through our National Reconstruction Fund, the Government has identified value-adding in resources and renewables and low emissions technologies as priorities.
That will enable more Australian lithium to be refined domestically and more of it to be manufactured into Australian-made products – which means more jobs and economic growth across the supply chain.
The Government will shortly release its first National Battery Strategy, outlining actions for governments and industry to address barriers and opportunities to boost investment in Australia’s battery manufacturing industry.
We have already committed to invest up to $100 million in an Australian Made Battery Precinct in Queensland and $14 million in the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre.
The electric vehicle revolution is one we can power yet further with ultra-fast vehicle chargers.
We can all take pride in the fact that the fastest electric vehicle charging stations in the world are built in Brisbane by Tritium. Tritium is a reminder that of all our natural resources, our greatest is our people.
Those revolutionary chargers being exported all over Europe and North America are designed and built by Australians. Homegrown talent powering a global revolution.
With the National Reconstruction Fund, we can back more homegrown talent.
Another area of great potential is in the export of green hydrogen produced with renewable energy.
The Government’s commitment to becoming a renewable energy superpower is targeted at stimulating investment in priority energy infrastructure.
This includes $2 billion for the Hydrogen Headstart program to make Australia a world-leading hydrogen producer by accelerating largescale renewable hydrogen projects.
And over half a billion dollars for hydrogen hubs in our regions – Pilbara, Gladstone, Townsville, the Hunter, Bell Bay, and Upper Spencer Gulf.
Australia already has the largest pipeline of renewable hydrogen projects in the world.
The Hydrogen Headstart program bridges the commercial gap for early projects, putting renewable hydrogen on a path to scale and supporting future export and manufacturing opportunities.
The installed capacity of hydrogen producing electrolysers grew by more than 20 per cent, while electrolyser manufacturing capacity grew by more than 25 per cent.
Hydrogen has many uses. Like powering vehicles, generating heat and electricity, and producing chemicals like ammonia which can be used as a zero-carbon fuel for shipping.
Pound for pound, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as petrol, and we will work to harness its potential.
But for our work promoting renewable energy and battery storage to have maximum impact, we must invest in transmission.
This is the critical step in connecting Australia’s businesses and households to our renewable energy future.
For too long, Australia has been held back by a national energy grid built for a time when solar panels powered pocket calculators, not households.
We want to ensure business and industry can access reliable and affordable clean energy to reduce their input costs and their emissions. This is what Rewiring the Nation is all about.
Some of the best places in the country for wind and sun – and the jobs that go with it –are off the grid today. That needs to change.
The investments we are making in upgrading the national energy grid will create new jobs on major projects around Australia. They will ensure that the next generation of Australian jobs in advanced manufacturing, technology and critical minerals can be powered by renewable energy.
As part of our quest for a grid fit for the 21st century and beyond, my Government is providing low-cost finance through Rewiring the Nation for the upgrade and expansion of Australia’s electricity grid.
We’ve announced four bilateral agreements with Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and most recently Western Australia to fast-track critical projects to unlock cleaner energy. Projects including the Marinus Link transmission project, VNI-West, Humelink and Renewable Energy Zones.
The Rewiring the Nation deal with NSW is backing eight critical transmission and Renewable Energy Zone projects, supporting more than 3900 jobs in the regions.
These transmission projects will increase network resilience and energy reliability for consumers and help put downward pressure on electricity bills in years to come.
I understand some people are concerned about what these transmission projects mean for their farms and communities. I sat down with a group of them just last month in Tamworth.
Transitioning our economy away from the fossil fuels that are making our climate unsafe and threatening our way of life is a big job. All of us have to be part of that effort.
So it’s important that people in these areas have the information they need to make good decisions for their families and their communities.
My government is determined to get the balance right.
Commonwealth work is underway to develop an evidence base to guide future community engagements efforts.
In the meantime, the Institute for Sustainable Futures has estimated an additional 12,000 workers will be required by 2025 to support the transition for the National Energy Market.
My Government will underpin this with 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships, which will open the door to good, secure jobs.
You can see it echoed in our approach to delivering fee-free TAFE places, which has grown out of our careful work with states and territories and with business to ease the skills shortages that have been acting as such a handbrake on our economy.
The transformation is happening swiftly, but it would not be responsible to turn off the tap overnight.
AEMO forecasts gas-generated power will play a key role in our energy system to 2050.
Gas will have an important back-up role, a flexible source of peaking generation that can support the grid through low renewables periods.
And some sectors, like heavy industrial users and manufacturers, will need gas.
Our Future Gas Strategy currently under development will support long-term, responsible, data-driven decisions while working towards our obligations under the Paris Agreement.
As the world changes and the appetite for fossil fuels shifts with it, we need to consider what transformation looks like in our communities built around coal mining.
One of our biggest coal producers, the Hunter Valley, has many strengths it can build on. The Singleton local government area has strong economic fundamentals, an educated and skilled workforce, and is in the top 10 per cent of Australian LGAs for innovation.
Next door, Muswellbrook is a strong performer in technology readiness and innovation.
I had the pleasure of visiting Muswellbrook recently to open the Donald Horne Building, which houses a STEM innovation lab and an advanced manufacturing centre.
It’s the latest addition to the Hunter Innovation Precinct, the likely birthplace of developments that will help shape our future for the better.
In Queensland, communities in the Bowen Basin will continue to benefit from the global demand for high quality metallurgical coal – a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of wind turbines.
Just as more traditional forms of energy powered prosperity for generations and made so much of Australia’s story possible, the shift to new opportunities will power the future.
Global demand shifts are reshaping Australian industry and presenting new opportunities
Global capital is shifting ever more rapidly toward clean energy and net zero-aligned projects.
Innovation and investment are driving towards a new era of low-cost renewable energy that can lower the operating costs and improve competitiveness for traditional and emerging industries.
World markets are increasingly demanding low-emissions energy and materials. Australia’s abundant sun, wind and large land mass provide an ideal place to generate power more cheaply than other nations.
Along with our other resources, these can facilitate decarbonisation while giving us a competitive edge.
All of this fits together into our vision of Australia going forward.
An Australia that takes its rightful place as a renewable energy superpower.
An Australia that manufactures things here and creates jobs here.
An Australia that is able to provide a skilled workforce for companies driven by innovation.
An Australia that makes a positive difference in the world by starting at home.
When we look ahead, it is with a mix of excitement and clear eyes.
We see the challenges, and the opportunities they contain.
Above all, we see a better future for all Australians.
And that what we’re working for.
That is why we’re working for Australians every day.