Manufacturers set to do heavy lifting in energy transition

Wind turbine under construction. | Newsreel
Australia's heavy manufacturers are looking for support to help in the nation's energy transition. | Photo: Kruwt (iStock)

Australian heavy manufacturers converge on Brisbane this month with the transition to renewable energy the focus of discussions.

The National Manufacturing Summit aims to bring together leading industry experts to discuss the practical aspects of the manufacturing sectors contribution to the transition.

Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden said the summit would highlighting the essential components needed move to a sustainable future and help for businesses to overcome the challenges.

Mr Crittenden said the Australian Government’s commitment to reducing emissions by 43 percent by 2030, delivering 82 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050 set the stage.

“The transition to renewable energy is paramount for Australia’s future. It is the biggest transformation of Australia’s energy market ever undertaken.

“As well as the shift from coal to firmed renewables, it will treble capacity to meet future demand and enable a two-way flow of electricity across the grid.”

Mr Crittenden said with an anticipated growth in renewable energy generation from 64GW to over 218GW by 2050, the manufacturing sector was at the forefront of this change, which presented unparalleled opportunities and significant challenges.

“For example, it is expected that over 6000 wind towers will need to be produced, each requiring upwards of 500 tonnes of plate. The annual production of plate steel in Australia is currently 400kt.

“(And) to connect all this new generation to consumers, AEMO estimates that more than 10,000km of new transmission lines and 24,000 transmission towers, at 30 to 60 tonnes of steel per tower, will need to be constructed around the country.”

Mr Crittenden said the Federal Government’s recent $1 billion investment in the Solar Sunshot program should be replicated in other sectors, from hydrogen through to wind tower manufacturing.

“The domestic demand for wind towers over coming decades is huge. Based on AEMO scenarios, the market could range from $20 billion anywhere up to $80 billion,” Mr Crittenden said.

He said a local heavy manufacturing industry, backed by government investment, would deliver speed to market and reduce Australia’s exposure to supply chain risk.

“Australia currently has reduced capacity in wind tower manufacturing because government contracts have long been offshored. However, major steel manufacturers such as BlueScope have expressed interest in wind tower manufacturing, as have Weld Australia’s members.”

The 2024 National Manufacturing Summit will be held in Brisbane on 31 July and 1 August.