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CSIRO lights path to net zero

The CSIRO has released a report highlighting steps the energy, transport, mining and heavy industries can take in the next 10 years to help Australia achieve its net zero targets by 2050.

Funded by the Commonwealth Bank, the modelling demonstrates how each industry will need to transform its economic and social systems.

According to the CSIRO, the need to limit global average warming to 1.5°C by 2100 will leave no country unaffected.

The report takes the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) widely referenced global scenarios and translates them to an Australian context – the CSIRO Rapid Decarbonisation (CRD) and CSIRO Stated Policies (CSP).

The report states that unlike the current government target, Australia will need to reduce the 2020 level of emissions by 52 per cent by 2030 to achieve net zero.

The electricity sector is one of the most rapidly changing industries, and the trajectory predicts renewable energy sources will make up approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s energy needs by 2030. The most significant increases will be seen in the solar sector, which will grow by 30 per cent; and in wind capacity, which will grow by 45 per cent.

In the residential and commercial industries, rooftop solar is projected to be installed in nearly half of all homes by 2030 and provide 17 per cent of electricity. According to the report, “decarbonisation of the electricity sector along with these efficiency improvements and switching fuels (e.g., water heating) are projected to reduce building emissions to well below 5 per cent of 2020 levels by 2050”.

With the transport industry contributing almost a fifth of Australia’s total emissions, the report predicts big changes need to be made across the sector. The CRD transition projects sales of electric vehicles will grow to 55 per cent by 2030, as Australia rapidly electrifies light vehicles. Heavier and long-distance vehicles will have a slower transition; as will rail, shipping and air transport.

As Australia’s population continues to grow, so too do the infrastructure needs. While the need for materials is expected to grow significantly, the emissions will also be reduced through a mix of fuel switching, using biofuels and technologies (that are currently in early demonstration) or prototype phase (such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage).

The agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector has a more complex outlook. Livestock emissions are one of the largest agricultural emissions sources, and the report suggests more work is needed to predict how the industry can reduce these.

According to the report, oil, gas and coal account for 40 per cent of Australia’s exports and generate more than AU$200 billion per annum. As the world decarbonises, the global demand for Australia’s fossil fuel exports will fall and pose a challenge to the economy. However, it is predicted that there will be a projected growth in mining and services exports. This will also result in other challenges – such as skills shortages – as new industries emerge.

The report predicts that Australia will out-perform similar economies despite a challenging longer-term gross domestic profit growth outlook, irrespective of the net zero transition.

The full report and the industry-specific reports are available at the CSIRO website.

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