The Race for the Rising Sun

August 12, 2019
Writer(s): Vaughan Marega

Solar power has been winning the race for the most efficient renewable energy source and for good reason. With such abundant supply of sunshine in this great nation, there is a call for greater action at both the state and federal level of Australian politics to capitalise upon this feature.

That being said, solar power research and development projects are currently underway. According to findings from the CISRO Renewable Research Department, in their study on ‘driving the diversification of the Australian car industry,’ efforts to effectively utilise heliostats in South Australia to rejuvenate the domestic automotive industry have yielded success.

However, opportunities to incorporate such a valuable resource into society are endless, yet clear momentum and consistency on this issue is lacking. This issue should be highly relevant in Australian Federal policy-making and planning. For example, there should be stronger movements to introduce solar powered public transport. Such infrastructure projects would require high levels of time, capital and human resources. However, if Australia continues to hold a conservative view towards renewable energy incorporation, we as a nation will be left in the, ‘Dark Ages’(literally).

News from industry leaders including the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk include lavish claims of powering some of Chinas major cities including Shanghai with its advancements in solar power. This is crucially important for China as it faces its ever-approaching deadlines for clean energy consumption. Musk proposed this idea in a recent press conference proudly responding to a journalist’s concern over the practicality of the matter,

“It’s worth noting, certainly, China has an enormous land area, much of which is hardly occupied at all. Given that the Chinese population is so concentrated along the coast, once you go inland the population in some areas is remarkably tiny…You could easily power all of China with Solar.”

If true, demand for Australian solar energy may come calling from a variety of big players. Japan, a country with an existing energy-trade relationship with Australia, may reconsider its recent focus on nuclear power if funding and recognition is put towards advancements in the solar sector. Contingent on this belief, Australia has the potential to become a key market player. Not capitalising on this opportunity would be a mistake.

This is further exemplified by simply considering natural resources at Australia’s disposal. As renewable energy continues to grow and become deeply embedded in all facets of private and public life, minerals used to generate such energy will significantly grow in value.

Lithium ion batteries are pivotal in the storage of solar power. The production of these is key in advancing the fruition of solar-powered mechanisms. Minerals used in production of these batteries include cobalt and nickel-sulphate; two minerals found in some of Australia’s largest operating mines.  Here lies another great opportunity for Australia to profit off its natural resources.

As of July 2019, related mining companies who produce such minerals, including Orocobre, suffered two-year lows on the stock market. This can be argued as consumers and investors underestimating the volatility of the mining industry. The way forward to prevent these losses would be primarily to look towards a focus on producing these crucial battery cells. Demand for renewable minerals to manufacture solar batteries and farms would pull our mining corporations out of recession and create much needed jobs for Australians.

Overall, it is imperative that Australia looks towards its energy future and sees the enormous potential benefits for the country. Jobs, capital, regional relationships, Australia’s national interests are well-covered. It is now up to the government and the private sector to fund more research into this area to better understand this upcoming global market.

The CAINZ Digest is published by CAINZ, a student society affiliated with the Faculty of Business at the University of Melbourne. Opinions published are not necessarily those of the publishers, printers or editors. CAINZ and the University of Melbourne do not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in the publication.

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