Australia’s industrial regions play an essential role in the nation’s economy.
They also produce a significant proportion of Australia’s emissions and contribute considerably to the country’s energy use.
Five regions alone – Gladstone, Pilbara, Kwinana, Hunter, and Illawarra – supply a combined A$166 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and employ 2.9 per cent of Australia’s workforce.
They also account for more than 16 per cent of Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions each year (Climateworks Centre and Climate-KIC Australia 2022).
Renewable energy industrial precincts (REIPs) are a practical solution to scale up and accelerate climate solutions in carbon-intensive industries. They offer industry the chance to capitalise on Australia’s abundant clean energy sources as global markets shift towards decarbonisation.
Businesses in industrial precincts can benefit through access to low-cost renewable energy, shared user infrastructure, labour pooling, input sharing, knowledge spillovers and circular economy practices.
While significant investment and additional renewable energy capacity are critical, ambitious policy action can unlock substantial economic opportunities.
A national place-based industrial decarbonisation program delivered by the Australian Government in partnership with states and territories will allow REIPs to be rolled out in a coordinated way, building on existing initiatives to derive greater impact.
The timely rollout of REIPs across the country could also play a significant role in helping the nation’s governments achieve their net zero emissions goals.
State and territory governments can support businesses in potential REIP locations to decarbonise through a range of mechanisms, including convening key stakeholders in REIP locations to develop ambitious decarbonisation roadmaps; co-investing in shared-use infrastructure; providing finance to promote emerging industries; building workforce and skills capacity; and reducing regulatory hurdles.
The Australian Government can also play a critical role in enabling REIP development across the country through national coordination, planning and co-investment (sending a clear signal to investors to help attract greater levels of private funding).