The case for electrification of transport in Australia
Mahin Rahman, 5th April 2022
Australia is heavily reliant on foreign oil imports to meet its energy needs – particularly in critical sectors such as transport and mining. As reported by Geoscience Australia, the nation is a net importer of oil with only 12 percent of refinery feedstock domestically produced. Although there are numerous Australian gas reserves yet to be discovered, extracting and burning more gas puts Australians in harm’s way. A report by the Climate Council titled ‘Passing Gas: Why Renewables are the Future’ outlines the government’s pledge to the gas industry and uncovers some uncomfortable truths. This includes the under reporting of gas emissions in Australia and the biggest user of gas in Australia being the gas industry itself.
Looking at the current geopolitical climate of the world where tensions continue to rise between Australia and China and the ongoing conflicts in Russia causing fuel prices to skyrocket to a record-breaking high makes one thing clear. Australia needs to secure its energy needs domestically. Australia is 90 percent import dependent for oil, and it only has two remaining oil refineries locally. Most of its oil comes from foreign owned and operated ships and more importantly controlled by foreign governments such as China. States such as Western Australia depend on 100 percent imported oil to fuel its mining and resources companies that are vital to the national economy. To transition the Australian economy to a domestic powerhouse for energy the nation needs to tap into the plethora of renewable resources available at its disposal such as solar, wind and green hydrogen.
Land transport is currently one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Australia with most of the fuel being imported from overseas. As reported by the Climate Council, in order to protect Australians from overseas volatility, it’s high time for all levels of government to back a transport system that is not reliant on imported oil. As outlined in the Beyond Zero Emissions report ‘Zero Carbon Australia Electric Vehicles’, the complete electrification of vehicles in the transport sector will eliminate at least 6% of Australia’s green house gas (GHG) emissions. Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) Vice President Dr Chris Jones reports that making the switch to battery electric vehicles for private and public transport makes sense both environmentally and economically. The transition to a completely electric EV and bus network will be supported by the growing list of ambitious green energy ventures such as the $100 billion renewable fuels hub proposed for Western Australia’s Southeast, or the Mike Cannon-Brookes backed Sun Cable venture. These projects will drive domestic demand for the transport sector’s energy needs and accelerate the transition of Australia’s zero emissions future.
With battery prices projected to drop by 20-60% by 2020, uptake of EV vehicles has never been more feasible. Electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel and maintain. They offer convenience of charging anywhere that has a charging infrastructure and the options to
feed back unused energy back to the grid. A shift to 100 percent electric buses would also mean that within ten years’ time the cost of maintenance and fuel would be cut down by 12 percent less than if we were to remain at business as usual as reported by Beyond Zero Emissions report ‘Zero Carbon Australia- Electric Vehicles’. This means that a network of 100 percent electric buses is economically lucrative to both state and federal governments.
These proposed solutions are part of a broader zero emissions strategy that will rejuvenate Australia’s manufacturing and create market confidence to boost an emerging critical mineral sector to support new manufacturing jobs. Secondly, this will alleviate our reliance on foreign oil and reduce running costs. Finally, the net zero future we hope for will improve the health of Australians and create a more vibrant and stronger community. With more electric vehicles on the road, our cities will be cleaner, quieter and safer for all.