An example of a large-scale onshore gas plant. Source: Adobe Stock
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Gas will continue to play an important role in Australia’s economic future, according to a cohort of industry and political leaders – including Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King, WA Minister for Energy and Environment Reece Whitby, and Woodside Petroleum CEO Meg O’Neill – speaking at the Australian Energy Producers (AEP) Conference in Perth this morning.

However, they express some variation on what this exact role might look like.

Minister King – speaking about the Albanese government’s ‘Future Gas Strategy’ announced twelve months ago – said the gas industry had a crucial role to play in helping Australia get to ‘net zero’ but could not just be seen as a replacement for coal-fired energy.

She said this understanding contrasted with the Liberal-National Coalition’s ‘Gas Led Recovery’ policy framework.

“As far as three-word slogans go, ‘Gas Led Recovery’ is about as useful as ‘no new gas’ when it comes to helping us balance the economic, energy and environmental challenges and realities ahead for us in our region, whereas the Future Gas Strategy is based on science and data,” she said.

“The central guiding theme of the Future Gas Strategy is the government’s pledge to get to net zero and how gas can support that.

“The Coalition’s ill-thought through Gas Led Recovery recklessly dumps all responsibility for the nation’s future energy security on gas, as coal-fired generation has declined.”

She added that emissions had to ‘rapidly and definitively come down’.

Its progress is disappointing. But that’s no reason to abandon potential and technology that is needed to help to get to net zero.

Minister Whitby, addressing the ‘great transition’ which climate change has rendered on the planet, said the concurrent transition to reliance on renewable energies would place Australia and Western Australia in key roles.

“Australia is one of the world’s great exporters, in large part thanks to Western Australia, where LNG has fuelled decades of growth,” he said.

“Last year, it contributed a fifth of our state’s minerals volume sales.”

This meant that the state was the exact place where the energy transition was most important – he said – but added, “There is also nowhere where the opportunity is greater.”

The ‘new renewable economy’ which Australia was progressing towards would be another step in the ‘Lucky Country’s’ story of prosperity, following earlier growth through agriculture and then gold and iron ore.

Ms O’Neill – who is also AEP chair – agreed that the gas industry should feature strongly in Australia’s push towards net zero and a renewable energy economy, but also argued for the continuing necessity of gas fuel itself in the near future.

Citing a study done by Ernst and Young as part of the AEP’s submission to the ‘Future Gas Strategy’, she said that in a variety of ways, there would still be demand for the fuel.

“That report…found that 26 years from now – when hopefully we’re living in a net zero world – there will still be a need for gas,” she said.

“While all net zero scenarios showed gas demand declining, they showed a need for it in 2050.”

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