Australia can slash its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over 80 per cent in five years using existing clean technology, a report has found. This is almost double the Federal Government’s current target of 43 per cent from 2005 levels.

The report, Deploy – Ambitious cleantech rollout to cut emissions and build a prosperous Australian economy, published by think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), outlines the steps Australia can take to get there. Just six existing technologies do the heavy lifting: wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, heat pumps, electrolysers and electric vehicles with chargers.

The plan will create 195,000 jobs that are “not susceptible to the boom and bust of the fossil fuel markets”, states the report. This also lays the foundation for “a prosperous modern economy.”

Accelerating  decarbonisation

In December 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted Australia’s renewable capacity would almost double in the next five years. While this would represent an impressive shift to a greener economy, the BZE report outlines a much bolder path. This also means the rewards of the net zero transition are felt much sooner.

The ambitious Deploy target is achievable and already supported by over 50 companies already getting on with the task in hand, said BZE Chief Executive Heidi Lee. “Australia can cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 81% by 2030 with a rapid rollout of technologies we’re already using and the help of carbon drawdown initiatives”, she said. “We’ve already shown we can lead the world in the deployment of renewable energy technology. We have the highest proportion of solar generation in our energy mix at 12%, supported by more than a quarter of households generating power on their roofs.”

While household solar generation has boomed over the past five years, we now need to double down on utility solar, wind and storage, she explained. “If we take this approach to other renewable technologies we won’t just meet our legislated emission reduction targets, we’ll go well beyond them.”

The Deploy plan

To reap the rewards of the 80 per cent emission reduction in five years, annual deployment rates for each technology must be accelerated as follows:

  • Two times for solar panels, from household to utility-scale
  • Four times for wind turbines, generating grid-scale energy
  • Five times for energy storage, including batteries from household to utility-scale
  • Fourteen times for electric vehicles and chargers, including passenger vehicles, buses, vans, trucks, farm machinery and mining equipment and 1.2 million chargers
  • Thirty-seven times for heat pumps for water heaters, air conditioning and industrial heat
  • Building 600 new electrolysers each year for five years for the green hydrogen industry

The Deploy plan also includes rolling out other efficient technology to reduce emissions. This includes induction cooktops, home insulation, revegetation and machines to produce biochar on farms.

BZE also highlight the importance of community buy-in. Local engagement and participation must be at the forefront to ensure a just transition. 

“It’s ambitious but achievable, and Australian businesses are ready to rise to the challenge”, said Lee. “Our research shows Australians that emissions-cutting technologies are here, we’re using them and there’s no reason why they can’t be scaled up to help us cut emissions, create jobs and lay the economic foundations for modern and competitive export industries.”

Protecting nature

Alongside using clean technology, the report also recognises that natural carbon sequestration offers a key opportunity to reduce emissions while protecting biodiversity. Therefore, the plan includes approaches such as habitat restoration, ecosystem protection, tree planting and soil improvement to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. In five years time, these measures would sequester 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, highlights the report.

A green economy means more jobs and lower bills

This ambitious technology rollout is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, say BZE. The Deploy plan would upgrade Australia’s building stock to increase comfort and reduce energy bills by thousands yearly. Electrifying vehicles also means quieter, cleaner roads. 

Australia already manufactures lithium-ion batteries, solar photovoltaics (PV), thermal storage and electric vehicles domestically, points out the report. Therefore, leveraging existing manufacturing strengths will create economic opportunities in regional heartlands. Clustering manufacturing in Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts (REIPs) can quickly accelerate the mass deployment of clean technologies while creating jobs and boosting the green economy. This will also reduce reliance on international supply chains and, therefore, strengthen Australia’s sovereign security. Furthermore, the plan would power a new green export boom worth AUD $333 billion by 2050. This is triple the current fossil fuel export revenue, say BZE.