US and Australia sign energy agreements to mitigate over-reliance on China

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From pv magazine australia

Australia has signed a series of new clean energy partnership agreements, including the ‘Net Zero Technology Acceleration Partnership’ with the US, the ‘Minerals Security Partnership’ which includes political allies from across the world, as well as an agreement between the chief science agencies of Australia and the US, the CSIRO and NREL respectively.

Speaking at the Sydney Energy Forum on Tuesday, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm focused on the importance of secure supply chains to the clean energy transition, especially in light of the current global energy crisis spurred by Europe’s over-reliance on Russia and the invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ve seen what happens when we rely too much on one entity for our source of fuel, and we don’t want that to happen – so to diversify those energy sources and to link up with partners is part of our energy security,” Granholm said.

With few hard details in the agreements, it seems as though the moves at this stage are more of a formal recognition of a joint goal, especially in response to recent geopolitical events. The US and Australia did, however, point to of a number of technological focal points.

‘Greatest peace plan’

Granholm described the transition to renewables as “the greatest peace plan of all” since countries cannot be “held hostage” over access to the sun or wind. “They have not ever been weaponised, nor will they be,” she said.

Australia currently imports around 80% of its solar panels from China – which also controls the vast amount of materials processing for other renewable technologies. While this has led to incredible depressions in the price of these technologies globally, the International Energy Agency’s executive director Fatih Birol noted the country’s near monopoly was “something that we all need to think about.”

Net zero technology acceleration partnership

Signed by Granholm and Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, the Australia – United States Net-Zero Technology Acceleration Partnership seeks to accelerate the development and deployment of zero emissions technology, as well as growing cooperation between the two countries in terms of critical minerals supply chains.

“With today’s partnership, our two countries will work together to unlock critical advances in long-duration storage, grid integration, clean hydrogen, direct air capture, and critical minerals and materials – providing an essential opportunity to export the innovations that will accelerate the global clean energy transition,” Granholm said.

Officials from the US and Australia agreed to meet within three months to make further progress relating to the agreement, presumably to set out more concrete goals. 

Minerals security partnership

This global partnership is specifically aimed at ensuring the security of critical minerals supply chains. Australia has now joined the partnership which includes the US, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.

Left to right: CSIRO’s Bronwyn Fox and NREL’s Peter Green, with Australian Energy Minister Bowen and US Energy Secretary Granholm.Image: CSIRO

CSIRO & NREL

At the forum, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific, Research, and Industry Organisation (CSIRO) and the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

“Under the agreement, CSIRO and NREL will initially focus on four areas of strategic importance to Australia: hydrogen, global power system transformation, plastics, and an accelerator/incubator program for small and medium sized enterprises that has the potential to transform our global energy future,” NREL’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Peter Green, said at the signing yesterday.

The agreement was also signed by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall. “Importantly, through CSIRO’s shared national labs, it paves the way for new opportunities for Australian science institutions to partner with US national labs and industry to lead on cutting-edge research that will lower the cost of net zero energy technologies at a global scale,” Dr Marshall said.

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