If Australia is going to meet its emission reduction goals, and achieve a more secure future when it comes to energy, we need to have a plan.
The CSIRO has released a Low Emissions Technology Roadmap for just this purpose, and it outlines not only the technology options available to us, but the ones we are most likely to fall to.
The roadmap analyses how changes in the electricity, industrial energy and transport sectors could help Australia meet or exceed its emissions reduction target for 2030 and contribute to further decarbonisation to 2050.
The roadmap also explores the potential economic opportunities that exist for Australian industry through deployment of relevant technologies or by participating in growing low emission fuel and technology supply chains.
It takes a "technology neutral" approach and presents four options or "pathways" to decarbonisation of the energy sector, which currently accounts for 79 per cent of Australia's emissions.
Based on nine months' research, modelling and consultation, the report found that Australia is endowed with energy-rich resources and is well positioned to benefit from innovation in low emission technologies. It also found that energy productivity will remain important in reducing energy costs and emission levels throughout the transition.
Modelling conducted as part of the report suggests that new energy generation is likely to be mainly in wind, solar PV, storage and gas to meet our 2030 emissions reduction targets, and while the technology pathways are comparable in terms of cost, they carry different levels of commercial, technical, social and stakeholder risks.
"In the midst of disruptive change within the energy sector, we must address the 'energy trilemma' of security, affordability and sustainability," CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said. "We can't navigate the bumpy road of change without this Roadmap, using science to re-invent roadblocks into freeways."
We think of coal as the past, but what if we could reinvent it into the feedstock for hydrogen? We think of lithium-ion batteries as the storage solution, but what if we could use chemical storage like ammonia which also offers safe transport and distribution using existing liquid infrastructure? This is the line of thinking CSIRO has taken to produce this roadmap.
"CSIRO's Strategy 2020 is dedicated to using science to navigate Australia's industries, both traditional and emerging, into a brighter economic future enlightened by innovation," says Dr Marshall.
CSIRO Energy Chief Economist Paul Graham noted that improvements in technology are often hard to predict, but Australia's diverse energy resources mean we can exploit new opportunities as they arise.
"History shows we are poor predictors of technological innovation – for example, at the start of this century no one thought solar photovoltaics would be a cost effective source of low emission electricity – but if we keep our options open, we have the opportunity to position Australia to achieve its emission targets and contribute to new global low emission energy supply chains," Mr Graham said.
The Low Emissions Technology Roadmap was prepared for the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy to provide input to the Government's 2017 Climate Policy Review .
You can view the entire report here.