4 innovations to watch in 2021: Driving Australia’s clean recovery

February 3, 2021

Here are four innovations and leading companies that could drive Australia’s clean recovery

This year, Australia has an incredible opportunity to place ourselves on a path of economic growth and create thousands of futureproofed jobs by investing in a low-carbon economy. Our Million Jobs Plan shows how in just five years, renewables and low emissions projects can deliver 1.8 million new jobs in the regions and communities these are needed most.

Here are four innovations and leading companies that could drive Australia’s clean recovery:

Let’s make electric transport in Australia

Electric transport is cleaner, quieter, less polluting than petrol or diesel equivalents and also has lower running costs. Electrifying all land transport in Australia would increase electricity demand by about one third compared to today while drastically reducing the need for imported oil. This would boost national security, while reducing emissions by 15%.

Our Million Jobs Plan shows that in electrifying public transport buses alone, Australia could create 19,000 jobs. If we wanted to, we could be making batteries and assembling new all-electric engines in buses, trucks and cars.

Companies like SEA Electric are taking the nation on a journey to modern zero-emissions transport. Founded in Australia in 2012, SEA Electric converts front engine cab/chassis rigid trucks and delivery vans to 100% electric-powered using their own proprietary electric power-system technology.

Sun and wind can power heavy industry

Most manufacturing processes require very high temperature heat, which is usually generated by burning a fossil fuel. However, our 2018 report Electrifying Industry showed that almost any industrial heat process can be fully electrified. A five year program to electrify Australian industry would employ a large workforce of designers, engineers and technicians, creating around 12,000 on-going jobs.

Companies like MGA Thermal enable the shift to renewable energy by providing a new way to store energy that’s clean, economical, and scalable. How does it work? Modular blocks are stacked into insulated storage tanks, which can store high-temperature heat for use in a range of applications including industrial process/waste heat and enabling intermittent renewable energy sources such as the sun and wind to provide base load electricity to the grid. This could soon mean formerly coal-fired power stations become emissions-free operations.

Turbine manufacturing helps keep jobs local

Most of the cost of wind farm development relates to the purchase of the wind turbines. Turbine manufacture is labour intensive and large turbine manufacturers prefer to make components locally once a market reaches sufficient size. Australia currently has little capacity to manufacture wind turbines, so we miss out on much of the profit and employment opportunities from wind farm developments.

But by bringing wind manufacturing on-shore, we could create over 9,000 new positions, many of which would be factory jobs with medium to low skills requirements. A quick way to do this is to convert Australia’s disused factories. This has already happened in Geelong where part of the old Ford factory is now making components for Victorian wind farms. Leading turbine-maker Vestas has indicated that, given sufficient demand, it would expand manufacturing in Australia.

We can turn waste into green steel

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore but produces little steel. Most new steel is made using coal and its production causes 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By combining exceptional resources in iron ore and renewable energy, Australia could become a pioneering producer of zero-emissions steel. A green steel industry would create 25,000 manufacturing jobs, or 37,000 if all of the iron were converted into steel.

Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW, Professor Veena Sahajwalla is producing a new generation of green materials made entirely, or primarily, from waste. She and her team are famous for their conceptual and scientific breakthroughs that underpin ‘green steel’, produced through a cost-effective process using recycled rubber tyres. The technology has been licensed to steel makers globally, including Newcastle-based steelmaker MolyCop which plans to implement the technology across its global operations.

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