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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Electrifying the Future: Australia can be a Leader not a Laggard

The world is in the midst of the largest new technology revolution for at least a century. And China is taking a commanding lead. It is strategically and assertively making unprecedented advancements in renewable energy - particularly solar, wind, and electric vehicles (EVs). China is positioning itself as the world's first "electrostate".

Meanwhile, Australia has at best focused itself on motherhood statements and greenwashing, while it keeps digging up coal and pumping out gas. Despite being one the world's largest repository's of the critical minerals necessary for renewable energy, and having almost limitless amounts of wind and sun, Australia remains stuck as a petrostate. We are being left behind in the latest global technology revolution.

If we don't make a choice soon, it will be made for us and the global economy electrifies. Our future prosperity and competitiveness depend on our ability to pivot rapidly. But unfortunately, the our political landscape, dominated by Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition, is failing us. So what needs to happen?

China's Leading Role in the Renewable Revolution

A recent report from US energy think-tank RMI highlights how China has successfully and strategically invested in clean technology over the past decade, outspending the United States, Europe and places like Australia tenfold. This has resulted in China dominating supply chains for solar panels, batteries, and other critical components of the renewable energy revolution. Close to half of new car sales in China are now electric, and this figure will rise to 90% by the end of the decade. Many petrol and diesel car factories in China are already closed or converting to EV manufacturing. China, is reshaping the global energy landscape and setting a new standard for what it means to be an energy leader. Nearly all the new EVs on Australia's roads are made in China, and not just the BYDs. The Teslas and higher-end Polestars and BMWs are also made in China.

Australia's Political Football with Our Future

Despite this clear global shift to renewable energy, Australia's major parties are not leading. They are stuck playing a dangerous game of political football with our future. The Labor Government is paying lip service to becoming a renewable energy superpower while unapologetically pursuing major gas and coal expansionism. Each time a positive climate measure is announced by Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen, it's impacts are more than doubly offset by new coal mine approvals from Environment Minister Plibersek or huge gas industry annoucements from Resources Minister Madeleine King. This approach is not only environmentally reckless but economically and strategically short-sighted. Minister King's joint arrival and photo with Woodside Energy CEO Meg O’Neill at the Parliamentary Midwinter Ball sums it up.

Meanwhile, on the conservative side, the LNP's so-called nuclear plan is nothing more than a distraction. It's about spinning a political negative into a political positive - Peter Dutton can say he's not 'against' renewables but 'for' nuclear. This is clever politics designed to divert attention. The LNP's strategy - which comes with huge public price tags, long and uncertain timelines, and continued expansion of emissions out to 2050 - serves to protect the fossil fuel industry by delaying investment in solar, wind, and electrification.

So What's The Path Forward for Australia

If Australia really wants to secure a safe, prosperous and competitive future, we must jettison our petrostate status as soon as possible. That means ending coal and gas exports. And ir means making substantial investments in renewable energy, supporting electrification of energy demand across all sectors, and developing robust clean technology supply chains.

Recommendations in the RMI report focus predominantly on how the US and Europe can compete with China. But they are also relevant to Australia. In particular, we need:

1. Investment in Clean Technology: Significant capital expenditure in development and deployment of renewable energy technologies is crucial.

2. Electrification of Final Energy Demand: Policies should aim to increase the share of electricity in final energy demand across all sectors, including industry, agriculture, transportation, and residential use.

3. Support for Supply Chain Development: Building robust supply chains for clean technology, including domestic manufacturing capabilities, is essential.

4. Innovation and Patents: Encouraging innovation through R&D and securing patents in clean technology sectors.

5. Policy and Regulatory Frameworks: Implementing consistent and supportive policies and regulations to facilitate deployment of renewable energy and the transition to electrification.

Australia can transition to an electrostate and lead in the renewable energy revolution. We can become a renewable energy superpower. But rhetoric and political football won't get us there. We must unite and act urgently. Both Labor and the LNP need to stop playing political football and focus on what's required for an electrified future. In my view, our best bet of making that happen is a Parliament with more credible independents that can hold the so-called major parties to account. Luckily for us, there's an election coming up soon.

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