As the world shifts to net-zero emissions, Australia could capitalise on our world-class renewable resources to become a renewable exports powerhouse.

Renewable exports are a broad range of products and services powered by renewable energy which can be used in Australia and sold to our trading partners overseas – establishing Australia as a winner in the global race to net-zero economies.

In 2021, ACF – along with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and WWF-Australia – published “Sunshot: Australia’s Opportunity to Create 395,000 Clean Export Jobs”. This report outlined six renewable export opportunities that could together create 395,000 jobs and $89 billion in revenue for Australia by 2040.

The six renewable export opportunities are:

  1. Renewable hydrogen and ammonia: We can make green hydrogen with 100% renewable energy. Hydrogen is a fuel that produces no carbon pollution when burnt. Renewable hydrogen is being called “the fuel of the future” because it could power manufacturing, heavy transport like shipping and metal refinery like steel – industries that are energy-intensive and very hard to decarbonise.

  2. Critical minerals mining and refining: Using responsible methods, we can mine, process and then export critical minerals that are essential for clean energy technologies, like lithium, cobalt and nickel for big batteries.

  3. Green metals: We can mine and process metal ores (like iron ore) and export high-value metals such as aluminum and steel produced using 100% renewable energy.

  4. Battery production: We can export batteries manufactured in Australia, many of the components would be made from minerals that are mined and recycled right here at home.

    Together, critical minerals mining and refining, green metals and battery production means bringing more of the value of the supply chain onto Australian shores, capturing more of the benefits and boosting Australian manufacturing.

  5. Education and training: Australia is home to some of the world-class research centers on solar and wind energy and high quality education institutions. Driven by growing demand for skills in the clean energy sector, we can attract international student enrolments in clean energy and environment related fields of study at Australian Universities and VET institutions.

  6. Engineering, ICT and consulting services: We can export services required to scale clean energy projects globally, including engineering and project management, construction, research and technology, systems integration, and much more.

Australia has everything we need to become a renewable export powerhouse. We are one of the sunniest, windiest countries in the world; we have an abundance of the critical minerals and metals needed for clean energy technology, renewable expertise, trading relationships and a proximity to booming markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

The only thing stopping us from meeting our renewable export potential is the policy. That’s why we’re calling for a Renewable Export Strategy.

A Renewable Export Strategy is a whole-of-government approach to ensuring a smooth transition from our over-reliance on fossil fuel exports to renewable exports. It builds on domestic renewable energy and decarbonisation strategies, but goes much further to unlock Australia’s massive potential to thrive in a decarbonising world. It is a comprehensive strategy to develop a wide range of renewable export industries and establish international markets for renewable energy products and services.

Designing a Strategy will require affected workers and communities, First Nations communities, industry, unions, businesses, experts and environmental groups working collaboratively with governments.

If Australia acts now, we can establish ourselves as a leader and reliable trading partner to reap the benefits of major economies quickly shifting to net-zero emissions.

Without a Renewable Exports Strategy, we risk a disjointed and unplanned transition in which workers and communities don’t have the adequate time, training or planning to maintain well-paying and secure jobs in future-proofed industries.

With a Renewable Exports Strategy, we can establish ourselves as a leader in growing markets, secure the next generations of jobs, build up Australia’s manufacturing capacity and capture more of the clean energy technology supply chain – making us more resilient to global market disruptions.

That's why we're calling on the Albanese government to commit to developing a Renewable Export Strategy.

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Header image: The Albany Wind Farm is one of the most spectacular and largest wind farms in Australia. Credit: bmphotographer/Shutterstock.com

Hillary Montague

Climate & Exports Campaigner