Energy from our regions - the next great export opportunity
Thanks to our regional areas, Australia could become a major exporter of renewable energy.
Regional Australia dominates renewable energy
As Australians, we enjoy a tremendous standard of living. And we owe much of it to the agricultural and resource exports that come from our regional areas.
A similar story is now emerging in relation to the global energy transition. Even though Australia has the highest uptake of residential rooftop solar in the world, largely concentrated in metropolitan areas, nearly 80% of Australia’s renewable energy comes from utility-scale projects in the regions.
This pattern is even more pronounced within Telstra’s energy portfolio.
Telstra’s energy usage adds up to about 300,000 homes’ worth of energy usage. But Telstra is also a major energy generator, producing renewable energy equating to more than 30% of Telstra’s total consumption.
While some of this energy comes from solar installations at hundreds of our network exchange sites, more than 99% comes from large projects in Emerald (QLD) and Murra Warra (VIC), which have an output equivalent to the energy consumption of about 100,000 residential customers.
Apart from stimulating economic activity and jobs in the regions, these projects are playing a significant role in lowering our carbon footprint. They’ve been crucial in helping us become Australia’s only carbon-neutral telecommunications network (achieved in 2020), and will continue to play a major role in our ambition to become 100% renewable by 2025.
When it comes to producing renewable energy - the regions hold the key
Due to our strong solar and wind resources, and renewable energy’s cost advantage, Australia is now looking at exciting potential export opportunities. And the regions hold the key.
As an example, the Sun Cable project seeks to harness solar resource in the Northern Territory and transport it to Singapore via undersea cable. Sounds crazy? Not when you consider that Australia’s ratio of land-mass-to-energy-consumption is 2,000 times higher than it is in Singapore.
Here’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, founder of Atlassian and Sun Cable investor:
Sun Cable is a world-scale engineering project. If we get this done on a global level, it will be innovative for many years to come. It's a huge potential export market for Australia.
And here’s David Griffin, CEO of Sun Cable:
Sun Cable is developing the Australia-ASEAN Power Link as a first of a kind. The first of many intercontinental electricity transmission projects that will enable the use of abundant renewable energy resources, on a scale never previously considered.
It’s interesting to think that it wasn’t that long ago that Governments and industry experts were debating whether Australia could reach 50% renewable energy. But now, thanks to this export opportunity, the debate has been completely transformed.
Here’s Climateworks CEO Anna Skarbek:
There's been a lot of calls for 100% renewables and how quickly can we get there. But in fact, 100% renewable is no longer the total goal.
When we look at decarbonising the whole world economy, Australia becomes an energy exporter of clean energy and we see the ARENA [Australian Renewable Energy Agency] CEO talking about 700% renewables as a more likely goal.
We certainly know that to decarbonise [the] global economy, the world needs about five times as much renewable energy as we currently produce, and that's to decarbonise transport and buildings as well as electricity. [We also need] to make about 10 times as much hydrogen as is currently produced. Australia can be a global energy exporter in a zero-emissions world. So, solving for five to seven times renewable energy is actually completely different and, in some ways, easier.
While the direct export of electrons through projects like Sun Cable are an exciting prospect for Australia, the exploration of green hydrogen is also shaping up as a big potential factor for growth.
In simple terms, green hydrogen is produced when renewable energy sources are used to power electrolysis. Electrolysis involves passing a strong electrical current through a tank of water, to split the water molecule (H2O) into its two constituent elements (Hydrogen and Oxygen).
And when it comes to green hydrogen, the headlines are being captured by strategic locations like the Pilbara, Townsville, Murray Valley, Latrobe Valley, Murchison, and of course Bell Bay.
Smarter consumption can accelerate the transition
As one of Australia’s largest energy users, we know the biggest difference we can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to increase the proportion of renewable sources in Australia’s energy grid. By harnessing renewable energy, deploying energy storage technology, and using machine learning to change the way we use energy, we’ve found ways to affordably access reliable, renewable energy.
Launching a retail offering later this year, Telstra Energy will seek to help more people do the same.
Here’s Head of Telstra Energy, Ben Burge:
Aware, empowered customers are the key to Australia’s energy transition. As a large energy customer ourselves, we know it’s not always easy to understand what’s really going on with your energy bill, or what to do about it. For a long time customers have been in the dark, even when the lights were on.
Telstra Energy’s focus will be to help customers access more affordable renewable energy. None of this would be possible without regional Australia; the engine room of the energy transition.