Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to The Guardian, Japanese offshore wind power and hydrogen will replace Australian natural gas exports at a faster rate than the Aussie government expects. But if there is such a market for green energy, why is government intervention required to realise this “opportunity”?
Australia’s reliance on gas exports questioned as Japan winds down fossil fuel power
Government urged to speed up transition to green energy as Australia’s biggest market shifts away from LNG and coal
A Japanese pledge to wind down gas and coal-fired electricity much faster than previously planned has sparked warnings Australia needs to speed up a transition away from fossil fuel exports.
A draft revised energy mix released by Japanese officials on Wednesday said the country – Australia’s biggest market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and thermal coal – would cut gas-fired electricity generation nearly in half and reduce coal power by more than a third by 2030.
The plan, devised to help the country ramp up emissions cuts by 2030, would require renewable energy to provide up to 38% of generation. Coal, LNG and nuclear energy would each provide about 20%.
While a shift away from coal has been widely forecast, the expected fall in Japanese gas-fired electricity is at odds with claims by the Australian government and the $36bn LNG export industry that its product would displace coal and help reduce global emissions.
Llewelyn Hughes, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said the Japanese announcement was a “big deal” for Australia and consistent with the country’s target of having 45GW of offshore wind energy capacity – nearly equivalent to Australia’s current power grid – by 2040.
He said some thought it would be challenging for Japan to meet its revised targets, but the commitment showed the country was on a trajectory to using fewer fossil fuels. “It indicates a long-term decline in coal and gas,” Hughes said.
Rebecca Mikula-Wright, the chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, said the draft energy mix was “a clear signal of the country’s intent to speed up its decarbonisation”. Australia’s other major customers in Asia – China and South Korea – were also heading towards net zero emissions and would reduce demand over the coming decade, she said.
“To remain competitive in global export markets, Australia needs to quickly put in place the right climate policy and investment signals to help ensure we are producing the green energy and other products that our major trading partners will increasingly demand,” she said.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/23/australias-reliance-on-gas-exports-questioned-as-japan-winds-down-fossil-fuel-power
Japan suffers frequent typhoons and the occasional earthquake driven mega-tsunami, and they have wind droughts like everyone else, so I’m a little dubious they will meet their target. There is only so much you can do to harden offshore wind turbines against hurricane force winds and pounding seas, and Japan has plenty of both.
But say Japan do start demanding imports of green hydrogen. Why would “the right signals” be required at any point from the Australian government? Why wouldn’t private investors come up with the cash, if an investment opportunity appeared?
To my knowledge nothing is stopping green energy entrepreneurs from raising private cash and building their solar hydrogen complex in the Aussie desert – other than an almost total lack of demand for their overpriced product.