Monday, 11 September 2023
Climate change is one of the sharpest security issues facing Australia. Globally, one billion people are at risk of heat stress. That will affect communities around our sunburnt country as well, including in Darwin, where today it is an unseasonal 36 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in September is usually 33. Additional heat, causing marine heatwaves, is likely to lead to a 45 per cent reduction in marine productivity; devastating sea level rises, which are an existential risk for our Pacific island neighbours; and serious losses to fisheries, tourism, agriculture and other sectors of our economy, not to mention longer droughts and harsher fire seasons. I'm thinking of all the firefighters fighting a massive fire in the Northern Territory at the moment. It's four times the size of the ACT. It isn't the future that I'm speaking of. As the fires in the Territory show, these effects are being felt today. They will also have national security implications, like the risk of climate change induced irregular migration. That's a billion people are experiencing heat stress. Some of them are going to be on the move.
That's one of the many reasons why the energy transition to net zero by 2050 is so central to Australia's national interest. Territorians are already playing their part. About one-third of Australian households have solar panels on their roofs, in fact setting a world record, and Territorians are also transitioning to solar at record rates. A total of 22,228 small-scale systems were installed by early 2023 this year, with a total capacity of around 174 megawatts. This adds up to about 695 watts of solar power per Territorian. That's impressive considering how much more expensive solar systems are in Darwin than the average price around the nation. We're adding another 35 megawatts with the Darwin-Katherine battery energy storage system that is being tested. Its 192 batteries will increase solar uptake.
The Territory is also fortunate to host the world's biggest renewable energy project, SunCable. It will generate a massive 17 to 20 gigawatts, delivering 3.2 gigawatts of firm power. This project will be incredibly important to Darwin in terms of renewable power generation, as well as to our key strategic partner, Singapore, by partially powering that country's grid.
Renewable electricity is critical to the energy transition. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the share of total electricity must double, electrifying transport and heat, to meet our global target. That's also true of the Territory's own target of reaching 50 per cent renewable energy electricity consumption by 2030.
Gas is another important energy source abundant in the Northern Territory that will be central to this transition, which is why projects like the Beetaloo basin are of not only local but national and global importance. The Beetaloo basin is estimated to contain 500 trillion cubic feet of gas. Developing the Beetaloo basin would not only create 13,000 jobs but also increase economic activity in the Territory by $17 billion. It would deliver cheaper and more reliable gas across Australia for decades to come, spurring advanced manufacturing and low-emissions industries in the Northern Territory and bolstering the much-needed transition fuel that is gas for our own energy mix as well as that of our trading partners.
The Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct is another important project that will help drive the energy transition by attracting hydrogen, carbon capture, gas, critical minerals processing, advanced manufacturing and other industries to the Top End. In a global first, the precinct will be largely powered by renewables. I'm proud of our government's $1.5 billion equity investment in the precinct.
Critical minerals, too, are central to building the wind turbines, EV car batteries and solar panels needed to achieve the transition. The Territory is rich in 15 of these and in ultravaluable rare earths, with nine active and prospective mining projects. If we get this right, the global energy transition is full of economic, social and security benefits for Australia, and Territorians are ready to support this national mission.