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Opinion

We can win the race to renewables with gas

Opinion

The race to net-zero emissions will be faster and steadier if we keep the gas on, writes former Beach Energy boss Matt Kay.

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We are a nation blessed with incredible resources, yet in 2022 local households and businesses are bracing for extreme power bills and blackouts with the country amid an energy crisis.

There is widespread fear that we are getting a taste of what’s to come if the transition to renewables isn’t done right. But it doesn’t have to be such a volatile path to net-zero.

The race to renewables will be faster and steadier if we keep the gas on.

The Federal Government has made good on its election promise to commit to a 43 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, ahead of the net-zero 2050 goal. The transition to renewables is vital for the planet – that’s well understood and broadly supported. What may not be so clear is this requires the gas to keep flowing in coming years.

AGL’s biggest shareholder billionaire businessman Mike Cannon-Brookes recently rejected more gas extraction and new gas-fired power plants as a solution to the energy crisis. However, flicking the switch on fossil fuels before there is a reliable supply of renewable energy risks more crippling blackouts with dire consequences.

Australia is making great leaps in the transition. There are more than 100 wind farms in Australia generating over 6,000 MW of power. Gas is a vital bridging fuel in the energy transition to support various offshore and onshore wind generation, solar, batteries and hydrogen.

Former Beach Energy managing director Matt Kay.

The gas industry is making significant strides in reducing its own environmental impact. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) which involves capturing, transporting and storing greenhouse gas emissions is reducing the environmental impact. I was pleased to be able to support the Moomba CCS initiative while Managing Director of Beach Energy.

As we head towards global peak gas, now is the time to pick up the pace with the transition to renewables. As always, Australian innovation and “can do” spirit will lead the way.

Australian and international investors, customers and governments have quite rightly pushed for greater action by businesses on ESG over the past five years.

Lawyers I have spoken with such as Nicole Mead at DMAW Lawyers say the pressure on resource companies to report on and actively show their lower carbon emissions remains a key challenge and potential opportunity.

Mead says the transition to net-zero requires companies to have a credible plan with achievable goals and the steps they’ll take along the way. Without that they risk facing accusations of ‘greenwashing – where a company markets environmental credentials that are misleading or overstated – or even legal action from regulators or stakeholder groups.

To me, this is even more reason to approach the transition to renewables with transparency, accountability and credibility as well as a realisation that gas still has a key role to play.

Matt Kay has 30 years of experience in the Oil and Gas sector. For the past six years he was Managing Director of Beach Energy. He is now a consultant in the industry.

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