Ahead of the 2023–24 Federal Budget, the Federal Government has announced it will establish a new Net Zero Authority to help workers, industries and communities benefit from Australia’s net zero transformation.
The Net Zero Authority will:
- Support workers in emissions-intensive sectors to access new employment, skills and support as the net zero transformation continues
- Coordinate programs and policies across government to support regions and communities to attract and take advantage of new clean energy industries and set those industries up for success
- Help investors and companies to engage with net zero transformation opportunities
The announcement has been welcomed by industry, including the Clean Energy Council, Australian Energy Council, Australian Hydrogen Council and Smart Energy Council, and more.
The Federal Government will work to legislate the Net Zero Authority following detailed design in consultation with stakeholders.
To kick-start the Authority’s responsibilities immediately, the Federal Government will recommend to the Governor-General that an Executive Agency is established from 1 July 2023 in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
This will include engaging with key regions, industries, investors and others to start to develop strategies for how the Federal Government can best support positive transformation.
The Agency will also consult across government and stakeholders to refine the functions and powers of the authority before legislation is developed.
The Federal Government is working to make Australia a renewable energy superpower, with efforts to rewire the nation, investing in new renewable storage and generation capacity, revitalising manufacturing and developing clean industries.
The Authority will help steer the Federal Government’s agenda to support communities, workers and industries – aligned to the Paris Agreement and making sure no one is held back as the economy changes.
The Authority will include a focus on regions and industries that have traditionally powered Australia’s economy.
As traditional industries adapt and transform, the Authority will work to ensure new industries are coming online, and workers, communities and regions are supported.
It will work with state and territory governments, unions, industry, First Nations groups and others to help key regions, industries, employers and others to proactively manage the transformation to a clean energy economy.
The Authority will also work collaboratively with state and territory governments, and existing regionally-focused bodies, reflecting the shared responsibility of all levels of government to support the change to a clean energy economy.
The Agency will be led by an independent Chair, supported by an Advisory Board – these appointments will be announced in due course.
Australian Energy Council
The Australian Energy Council, has welcomed the announcement of the Net Zero Authority, saying it will play an important coordinating role and help investors and companies realise new net zero opportunities in regions where existing industries are transforming to lower carbon technologies.
The AEC’s Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, said the energy transition will present significant challenges, none more so than for communities that have been reliant on coal-fired generation plants and coal mining. Without appropriate support there will be risks to the economic wellbeing of former plant workers and regions when closures occur.
“Government has a critical role to play in ensuring that communities are not left behind. To ensure public support for the energy market transition we need strong engagement and cooperation across all levels of government, in industry and in the communities themselves,” Ms McNamara said.
Ms McNamara said a national body can play a paramount coordinating role between investors, and companies and the regions where existing industries are transforming to lower carbon technologies, but it will be important to avoid duplication and to harness the work underway on power plant sites, and in regional and state governments.
“Our members are on the frontline of the shift away from coal-fired generation and are acutely aware of the challenges at a local level. We know that each community will be impacted differently. Energy companies plan years in advance to enable their plants to close in a way that supports both their workforces and the local community,” Ms McNamara said.
Clean Energy Council
The Clean Energy Council have long advocated for a Net Zero Authority as an essential building block as part of a Renewable Energy Superpower Masterplan, which the Clean Energy Council is advocating for within the next budget.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said the Net Zero Authority is a vital piece of the puzzle as Australia shifts towards a cleaner, more prosperous economic future for all Australians.
Mr Thornton said the Authority’s dedicated funding and long-term mandate will “ensure the appropriate level of coordination, durability, and leadership necessary to achieve a genuinely just energy transition”.
The Climate Council
The Climate Council said the new National Net Zero Authority will be crucial to ensure everyone gets to share in Australia’s next era of prosperity as a renewables superpower.
Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said the announcement will see Australia grab hold of the huge opportunities for clean, cheap energy and strong new growth industries as the world charges ahead on a trajectory to net zero.
“Australia’s global allies and trading partners are forging ahead with the transition to net zero and it makes perfect sense for Australia to get in the game. Taking strong action now is the best way to ensure Australia captures growing markets for clean energy and low emissions products, to power the next era of our national prosperity,” Ms McKenzie said.
“Communities in regions where fossil fuels are being phased out and those in Renewable Energy Zones need a voice, clear plans and strong investment to guide the transformation of their local economies and industries. The National Net Zero Authority can provide important leadership and coordination for this shift,” Ms McKenzie said.
“The sense of momentum towards a clean future in Australia is inspiring. As well as Federal action, every Australian state and territory is in a race to the front of the clean energy pack.”
The Climate Council would like to see the National Net Zero Authority take an active role in coordinating and agreeing upon realistic closure dates for all Australian coal-fired power generators.
The Climate Council said this will be essential to provide certainty for communities and workers. The Authority should also be planning for the broader, urgent phase down of fossil fuels like coal and gas across Australia as we accelerate the supply of new renewable energy.
Australian Hydrogen Council
The Australian Hydrogen Council welcomed the plans for the Authority, and said it hoped to see planning for hydrogen infrastructure included in the scope.
Australian Hydrogen Council CEO, Dr Fiona Simon said the organisation has long called for a coordination body tasked with delivering an evidence-based approach to planning and coordinating the transition to net zero.
In Unlocking Australia’s Hydrogen Opportunity report, Australian Hydrogen Council recommended hydrogen be included in the Authority’s scope, particularly applications that are more likely to require clean hydrogen to decarbonise and more likely to achieve large scale. Ideally these applications should demonstrate an ability to open the market to other applications through knowledge and technology sharing, geographic proximity, and/or cost reduction.
“We know that very few hydrogen projects are making final investment decisions, which has implications not only for Australia’s hydrogen export ambitions but also local industrial decarbonisation efforts,” Dr Simon said.
“The market requires a signal to show Australia is serious about hydrogen and we hope this authority will have the teeth to make decisions on the infrastructure necessary for the transition.
“The authority will need to be adequately funded to ensure it can plan, co-ordinate and report on the progress of the energy transition across the entire economy.
“We look forward to seeing more details about the National Net Zero Authority during the delivery of the Federal budget next week and to continuing to work with government and industry to ensure Australia realises its capability to be a major hydrogen producer.”
Smart Energy Council
The Smart Energy Council has been part of a significant movement pushing for the establishment of the Net Zero Authority, including its partners the Climate Capital Forum and welcomed the Authority announcement.