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Nuclear in mix for miners on emissions

Small nuclear reactors, advanced battery technology and more gas-fired power generation must be part of the government’s blueprint to lower emissions, according to the nation’s largest miners and resources companies.

Australia’s largest employer groups are also calling for greater investment certainty and energy policy stability in a series of submissions to the Morrison government’s technology investment road map panel obtained by The Australian.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said small modular nuclear reactors should be given higher ­priority. “There should … be a focus on other firm zero-emission technologies including the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs),” Ms Constable told Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who heads the technology investment road map reference panel.

“MCA acknowledges the panel has a watching brief on SMRs. Given that they will be commercially available in less than a decade, the MCA recommends the panel make them a priority medium-term technology rather than a technology for consideration post-2030.”

The MCA also supports the development of “more advanced battery technology” and carbon capture use and storage, which has the potential to “substantially reduce the emissions of some ­existing coal plants”.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government was developing the emissions road map from a “technology, not taxes” ­approach to avoid imposing costs on households and businesses.

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will back new and emerging technologies that will support jobs, strengthen our economy and reduce emissions,” Mr Taylor said.

The draft technology road map, released by Mr Taylor in May, outlined 140 future energy sources that could be developed towards 2050.

A final list of priority technologies is expected ahead of the October 6 budget and will anchor the government’s long-term emissions reduction strategy, which will be released before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow next year.

In its submission, the Australian Food and Grocery Council told Dr Finkel it was “imperative to recognise the differing cap­acity” of small and medium-sized businesses to implement “emissions reduction strategies”.

The AFGC, representing the $122bn food and grocery sector, said it was “critical that policy settings enable Australian manufacturing to be internationally competitive”.

Its submission says the implementation of the road map must allow “industry time to adapt and remain competitive”.

Andrew McConville, chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, said their submission endorsed the position that natural gas would play an “essential role in reducing emissions”.

“Gas-fired generators can be rapidly started, making them complementary with intermittent renewable energy,” he told The Australian. “Exporting gas as LNG is allowing our Asian trading partners to reduce the emissions from their economies.”

The MCA, which released a three-year climate action plan on Monday, said government policy must “foster continued economic growth and investor confidence” and endorsed offsets for hard-to-abate sectors, warning “Australia’s energy-intensive businesses need a deep and liquid domestic and international offset market”.

The Australian Industry Group said a “suitable vision would be for Australia to achieve both net zero emissions by 2050 and global competitive advantage in a net zero emissions world”.

The AiGroup said the remits of the Australian Renewable ­Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation should be expanded to “help accelerate the demonstration, commercialisation and rollout of low, zero and negative-emissions technologies”. “Even for technologies that become competitive without carbon value … the rate of deployment and replacement of existing assets will not be rapid enough to efficiently meet our climate goals unless a value is placed on clean over less clean assets,” the ­AiGroup submission said.

Source: The Australian