Highlights from the 2021 Australia-Korea New Energy Forum
More than 300 individuals across business, government and academia in Australia and Korea attended the 2021 Australia-Korea New Energy Forum on 5 October, for an in-depth discussion on how both nations can partner and benefit from the opportunities in hydrogen, low emissions technology, renewable energy and critical minerals.
The forum, organised by the Australia-Korea Business Council (AKBC), the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Australia and The University of Melbourne, was launched by one of Australia’s greatest minds in low emissions technology and hydrogen, Dr Alan Finkel AO. His keynote address articulated how our best bet for a clean future, reliable energy and an “electric planet” is to invest now in renewable energy industries, markets, and applications across all aspects of our economy.
The overarching theme of the event was collaboration. There is immense opportunity in these technologies and resources but also tangible challenges to creating resilient markets, none of which can be overcome in isolation.
Opportunities in reach and in play
Partnerships will play a core role in our energy transition. POSCO, for example, is considering Australia as one of its “regional strategic bases” in order to supply international and domestic markets and has already secured partnerships with FMG, Origin Energy, Rio Tinto and Roy Hill. Another example is Woodside Energy’s FutureLab at Monash University, which is driving Australia’s next generation leadership of sustainable energy technologies through genuine collaboration between staff, researchers and students.
And at the government to government level, policies like the Australian Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap and Korea’s critical minerals supply chain strategy, are helping shape real conversations around a low emissions technology bilateral partnership.
Energy security and diversity are important factors to both nations. Energy costs are rapidly increasing and there are a number of jurisdictions such as the UK and China facing real energy shortages. Australia and Korea both have a very tangible role to play not only in supporting each other but supporting others in the region to increase energy security. The building blocks we put in place now through enhanced engagement and investment will pay substantial dividends in the future.
ESG considerations are becoming increasingly important for investors, customers and businesses engaging in the critical minerals and rare earths space. The thorough examination of emissions frameworks, community consultation and support, and comprehensive analysis of risks and modern slavery indicators, are just some of the considerations that companies must begin proactively examining, and Australia’s strong performance against these measures position its companies well in the global market.
Concerns, costs and risks
The energy transition is ripe with opportunity as well as cost. While there is much still to be done in continuing to build out renewables and the energy storage solutions that support them, there is a much wider set of opportunities that are beginning to open up. The winners are going to be those who lean into the energy transition.
For example, Australia’s network capacity presents a number of short term challenges to the rising take-up of renewable energy into the grid, as do rising CAPEX and decreasing state revenue from renewable energy generation. These challenges also present opportunities, like investment in transmission and battery storage.
Investing in hydrogen infrastructure is also critical. While we have the technology to generate green hydrogen, we are decades behind in terms of the infrastructure to capture, transport, store and export it at scale to service multiple markets, including our energy grids. As we develop the infrastructure, we must also focus on developing hydrogen electricity generation through fuel cell plants. Then we can move to fuel cells for transport (replace diesel engines in marine fleets); industrial feedstock to produce zero emissions iron; gas blending in our distribution networks; and finally leverage its export potential.
There are also a range of safety concerns that must be acknowledged. We have limited experience of the safe use of hydrogen, ammonia and methanol in many industrial devices that we will likely need to deploy over the next 30 years. This, however, presents opportunities for innovation – to drive competitive advantage by asset owners and manufacturers, as well as opportunities for the development of international standards.
Where to next?
Bringing our best minds together is vital to solving the challenges and leveraging the opportunities across hydrogen, low emissions technology, renewable energy and critical minerals. Forums, like the 2021 Australia-Korea New Energy Forum, are just one way to achieve this and the AKBC is committed to helping its members engage in meaningful and relevant ways.
As we consider the opportunities ahead, please take a look at our events during Australia-Korea Business Month and register for the 42nd AKBC-Korea Australia Business Council Joint Meeting which will be held on 28 October simultaneously across Australia and Korea. The Joint Meeting is our flagship event and is considered widely as the premier event in the Australia-Korea relationship.