WA Works Winter 2019

Page 52

Battery industry

Harnessing the power of batteries WA is centre stage in a national plan to grow Australia’s exports of battery-related products, writes Tim Shanahan

T

he rapid shift to a renewable energy future is driving a global battery boom never seen before. In a world with wind power and solar photovoltaics at centre stage, storage technologies will be a cornerstone of future electricity systems and must keep up with the pace of change. With Australia’s resource-rich lands, industry leadership and research strengths, our country is well placed to play a leading role in developing innovative solutions for how energy is stored and deployed into the future. WA will be at the centre of the national plan to refine, manufacture and supply materials and components for these batteries. It will house a new R&D consortium of 58 industry, academic and government partners tasked with supporting the nation’s response to these emerging new industries. In April, the Federal Government announced that the national consortium, led by Curtin University (and including UWA and Murdoch), had been successful in its bid to host the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) here in Perth. The WA State Government seeded the bid with $6 million in funding and the Federal Government committed $25m to

52 WA WORKS Winter 2019

match the $28m committed by other industry, research and government partners. The Future Battery Industries CRC has a six-year plan to address the gaps in the nation’s capacity to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the battery revolution and ensure Australia creates the tools and technologies necessary for every stage of the international battery value chain.

Tim Shanahan

delivering an estimated $2.5 billion benefit to the economy over the next 15 years. That is an ambitious objective, but we have already started by building the culture of collaboration that will be needed to match the key industry challenges with the relevant capabilities across our research partners. In May, we held our first meeting of participants in Perth and attracted 96 representatives from across Australia and beyond, marking the first step to identify the priorities that will guide our six-year research program. As many of our participants are SMEs, the Future Battery Industries CRC will focus on lending them a critical mass by providing access to larger players and the tools for technology transfer and commercialisation. We see our role as helping participants, including those companies further down the value chain, to work together to test their ideas in order to deliver research that can grow Australia’s exports of battery industry-related products and technologies, which are in demand around the world. Ultimately, our aim is to develop new industries, grow exports and create new jobs by addressing the challenges faced by industry and presenting Australia as a globally competitive provider of low-cost, high-quality and technically superior battery materials and technologies. The Future Battery Industries CRC brings together industry, government and researchers to solve the challenges for the next generation of energy storage systems. And it aims to do this by moving quickly given industry calls for Australia to act within the next five years or risk losing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overseas competitors. The industry has warned us that there is

“WA will be at the centre of the national plan to refine, manufacture and supply materials” Harnessing new energy materials including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminium, vanadium, and graphite, the consortium aims to expand Australia’s battery minerals and chemicals production. It will also develop opportunities for specialist battery manufacture; support the deployment of batteries to households, communities and industry; and optimise the circular economy for the use and re-use of battery systems,

an urgent need for Australia to take the lead and we have already started the work to ensure these new businesses — and the jobs they will create — are developed right here, leveraging our natural resources and internationally renowned research skills. Tim Shanahan is Chair of the Future Battery Industries CRC, which can be contacted via contact@fbicrc.org.au


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