Kristin: The second session of the Australian New Zealand Cleantech forum focused on ways Australia and New Zealand might take clean technologies to the world.
Sean Ebert from WorleyParsons focused on their activities in establishing large scale solar thermal plants. Apparently, one factoid suggests that 1% of the Sahara desert under solar thermal power could power the world. And as mentioned in the previous post, Australia has very good resources for solar. Developing a vision around how to connect these resources to needs and the growing energy market was a critical step. Another step was determine how to optimise costs. The operating costs are quite low, but the cost of manufacture is not. Manufacturing solar technologies locally out of an accessible capital city like Adelaide will drive down the capital costs of these type of plants. In looking for optimum plant location, WorleyParsons examined the environmental, social, engineering and economic limitations against the availability of solar thermal resources. The technical capability and engineering know-how to produce this large scale solar thermal plant resides in Australia. Is is now just a matter of leveraging government support to pin down the optimum location.
Helga Birgden from Mercer Investment Consulting introduced cleantech investment. Her team helps institutional investors to better understand the risks and rewards around cleantech. They do this by providing ratings of cleantech managers and their portfolios by measures including financial performance, expertise, quality of management; but also since 2005, on environmental, social and corporate governance capabilities and practice. She acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis has been a major barrier -and that we are facing both a climate change wall and financial wall. Cleantech is growing rapidly as an investment category with energy as the dominant theme. An interesting point – does cleantech exist within a certain asset class, or does it have more cross-over. I find this an interesting point as I’ve always considered cleantech to be more an underpinning, enabling suite of technologies (like for many emerging technologies), rather than an industry sector. Institutional investors are generally attracted to cleantech because of diversification, new areas of opportunity, favourable risk returns, its innovative status and potential for continued growth.
Kerry Rooney from AusTrade outlined the priorities of her Clean Energy team – clean energy is seen as a key priority of the AusTrade program. AusTrade is an Australian Government department that delivers services to assist Australian business to initiate, sustain and grow trade and outward investment as well as providing advice to the Australian Government on trade and investment development. In clean energy, AusTrade is focused on inward investment to fill gaps in Australia’s capability and attract captial as well as export and outward investment. The particular sectors include renewables, carbon capture and storage, carbon market services, clean development mechanisms and environmental technologies such as waste management, recycling, energy efficiency, water and sustainable urban design. A good outcome from their activities has been partnerships with New Zealand as both countries offer complimentary strengths and can provide a stronger case for investing in this part of the world.
Finally Vaughan Levitzke spoke about ZeroWaste SA, the name of which emerged from a zero waste strategy released in New Zealand a couple of years ago. The policy initiatives around environmental technologies like waste management, recycling and global footprint have seen a doubling in household recycling across the state and further opportunities for energy generation. He stressed the need for partnerships and tailoring of solutions to the local situation.
Can Australia (and New Zealand) take cleantech to the world? It certainly seems like the resources, technological capbilities and optimism are here. But it is a highly competitive space and we need at act quickly to effectively stake our claim as the leading cleantech region.