Net Zero Australia (21.RP4.0052)

The Net Zero Australia (NZAu) Project was a two-year collaboration between The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, Princeton University and management consultancy Nous Group. NZAu used the modelling method developed by Princeton University and Evolved Energy Research and analysed pathways for Australia to achieve net zero emissions for both domestic and export energy systems.

Visit the Net Zero Australia website to access detailed final reports with information on the modelling scenarios and sensitivities.

The challenge

Reaching net zero emissions necessitates a significant transformation and nation building opportunity for Australia. The NZAu study has presented the costs and benefits of scenarios at a high level of geographic resolution. Three overarching key focus areas to achieve net zero emissions in Australia include:

  1. Unprecedented Energy Transformation: A rapid shift towards renewable energy sources, with domestic capacity reaching 400-500 GW and potentially thousands of GW for export by 2050.
  2. Export Transformation: Transitioning exports to clean energy and mineral resources, potentially establishing new clean export industries in Australia.
  3. Workforce and Land Use: Expanding the clean energy workforce (700,000-850,000 jobs by 2060) and moving the land sector towards net-zero emissions, potentially including negative emissions strategies. Careful management of land-use changes is crucial to consider Indigenous interests, ecosystems, and agriculture.

Proposed solutions

NZAu assessed progressive impacts of each scenario on emissions, infrastructure, costs, employment, land use, air pollution and other important outcomes and recommended the following strategies:

  • Massive Renewable Energy Expansion: Achieve significant domestic and export capacity through large-scale renewable energy projects.
  • Energy Storage Solutions: Develop large-scale battery storage, pumped hydro, and gas-fired firming capacity to ensure grid stability.
  • Electrification: Increase electrification across all sectors, including transportation and buildings.
  • Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage: Develop a robust carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) industry to capture and store CO2 emissions.
  • Network Expansion: Significantly invest in expanding and upgrading energy transmission and distribution networks.
  • Financial Resources: Attract substantial investment ($7-9 trillion by 2060) to support the transition.

Impacts

The achievement of net zero emissions for both domestic and export energy systems in Australia by 2050 will result in:

  • Global Decarbonisation Leadership: Position Australia as a leader in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reduced Emissions and Climate Change Mitigation: Significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, potentially lowering energy costs and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

 

Next steps

The Net Zero Australia project outlined the pathway for Australia to achieve net zero emissions. The final report published in July 2023 noted: A clean energy export framework should be developed by the Federal Government, in consultation with domestic stakeholders and trading partners, to guide an orderly export transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and minerals.The next steps include:

  • Australia must accelerate and expand its decarbonisation efforts to achieve net zero by 2050.
  • Australia must determine the role of government, industry, and households in achieving net zero.
  • Prioritise key strategies, including specific renewable energy sources, CCUS deployment, and network development.
  • Secure significant investment capital ($7-9 trillion by 2060) and deploy funding into investment ready projects.

Project researchers

  • Professor Robin Batterham
  • Professor Michael Brear
  • Professor Pierluigi Mancarella
  • Dr Patricia Lavieri

Project status

Complete

Partners