Road to Prosperity: jolting to life WA’s ‘new energy boom’
In our resource-driven economy, nothing gets WA business and government types more excited than the promise of a new export opportunity.
Our history is littered with resource booms that changed the face of our State and much-hyped plans that didn’t quite make it (think WA Government-backed State Agreements on steel and iron processing ventures in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s).
Now the talk of our town is focused on the materials required to build batteries and other energy-related technologies. And this time, we are determined not to miss out on capturing downstream processing opportunities once we dig these critical minerals out of the earth.
Much of the focus is on building our very own “Lithium Valley” – a hub for downstream processing and manufacturing in the battery and energy minerals space.
Some of the projections about the potential of the sector are remarkable. What is currently an industry worth $2.97 billion to WA each year could rise to as much as $56.5 billion if we captured even 10 per cent of the associated electro-chemical production per annum.
The most critical factor in realising this potential is WA moving beyond just extracting new energy metals from the ground and starting to refine and process them. These graphs clearly demonstrate what we aren’t doing right now and where opportunities lie.
What are governments doing to position WA ahead of this new opportunity? Here’s a summary of the key recent policy initiatives:
- Established a Taskforce and Industry Reference Group in May 2018 to develop a Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy. It is expected the Taskforce will present recommendations to the State Government within the next few months.
- Committed provisional funding of $5.5 million to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) to support its bid to establish a New Energy Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in WA. The CRC will support development and manufacturing of technology metals and renewable energy sources. The objective is to create value, through industry-led research, and drive global demand for local products, services and solutions.
- In February, agreed to partner with the United States in the Australia-United States Strategic Partnership on Energy in the Indo-Pacific. The Prime Minister’s press release from the time said the countries intended to “work together on strategic minerals exploration, extraction, processing, and research and development of rare earths and high-performance metals.’’
- In May, announced changes to cap rebates under the Research and Development Tax Incentive Scheme at $4million per annum. This initiative has been criticised by the smaller project developers as putting a stranglehold on innovative, pioneering resource projects.
Here at Cannings Purple we are also active in the energy metals space and are among the founding members of the New Energy Metals and Battery Alliance (NEMBA), a journey we embarked on more than a year ago to support and advocate for a new energy metals ecosystem to promote and foster the development of a sustainable and profitable new energy sector in Western Australia.
There is a clear need for the sector to speak with a united voice if the full potential of the “boom” is to be realised and NEMBA will address that need.
Head to the website nemba.com.au to learn more and find out how to join.
Astrid Serventy leads Cannings Purple’s Government Relations team, which has expertise across WA, federal and local government, energy, resources, agriculture, education, health, construction and property development. She has advised ministers at both state and federal levels.