Clean energy exports at 'lightning speed'

·3-min read

Australia will change at "lightning speed" to become a superpower exporting renewable energy to the world.

Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen told a forum in Canberra the plan to have an energy grid powered by 82 per cent renewables is a big step up, but is just the beginning.

"But then we've got to be moving on to 200, 300, 400 per cent in exports," he said on Wednesday.

The federal government has committed to more than 10,000 kilometres of new high-voltage lines to connect solar, wind and energy storage across a future clean electricity grid - for new industries and exports.

The Sun Cable project to export energy to Singapore from a massive solar farm in central Australia and the development of green hydrogen have a long way to go but the potential is there, Mr Bowen said.

"It won't be long before we're walking through hydrogen plants and showing the jobs of the future, physically touching them."

He said it's "been a long time between drinks for sensible progressive climate legislation for our country".

The new laws to lock in a 43 per cent emission reduction target for 2030 are expected to pass the upper house, followed by budget legislation for electric vehicle tax cuts.

"Reducing emissions over that time frame is actually lightening speed when you consider how late our country is starting the journey," Mr Bowen said.

"It has to be done. We've wasted a decade, we're not wasting a second now."

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O'Shanassy said the 43 per cent target is "nowhere near enough but we need it".

"The challenge for most of us who have been advocating for this for a long time is to not let the perfect get in the way of the good, and that is incredibly hard to do," she said.

The Sunshot report last year outlined how to create 395,000 clean export jobs in renewable hydrogen and ammonia, critical minerals, batteries, education and training, engineering, ICT and consulting.

The leaders behind the report, speaking at the Better Futures Forum, reiterated the need for a renewable export strategy with a $5 billion fund for workers and regions delivered by a new federal agency.

Union boss Michele O'Neil quizzed the minister about job losses for workers in coal-fired power stations and called for retraining so Australians could get safe, secure, well-paid jobs of the future.

It is not enough to hope that it happens, Australia needs a national energy transition authority to work with communities and businesses, she said.

Clark Butler, director at consultancy Zero Industrials, said decarbonising the economy would be a massive challenge, agreed it needed to be well-planned and coordinated by government.

But he said fossil fuel industries have transferable skills.

"The idea that you work at Yallourn power station and then you're going to work in a gigawatt factory or advanced manufacturing seems far fetched," Mr Butler saud.

"But the skills are electricians, fitters and turners, and engineers."