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11 October 2019 Speech

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CSIRO is Australia's national science agency, solving the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

In CSIRO we deliver science and technology solutions that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.

In the energy sector, this means we enhance Australia's economic competitiveness and regional energy security - while enabling the energy transition to a net zero emissions target by 2050.

Australia has been reliant on fossil fuels both domestically and as an export market, sustaining our growth economy but has begun the transition to renewable sources.

Right now, there is a global race toward clean energy. What was once costly to do, is now costly to business, government and research if we don't.

Australia has the largest electricity grid in the world, spanning almost the entire continent. In 2016, severe weather disconnected the entire state of South Australia from the grid, impacting 800,000 people.

This outage highlighted the need for greater interconnectivity, to diversify our energy sources, and the importance of energy storage. This event prompted Australia's first extensive whole-of-system review.

The outcome is a renewed emphasis on the role of science and technology to predict weather, climate, energy usage and generation.

CSIRO deployed Australia's first large scale off-grid solar storage system in WA to power our SKA pathfinder – creating completely carbon free Astronomy. We did this by empowering a small Australian company, EMC who grew almost tenfold after working with us.

Sadly, SA deployed the Tesla battery rather than backing Australian science and technology, but in contrast Furukawa in Japan and East Penn in the US backed CSIRO's approach - so perhaps like Nicole Kidman, we have to go overseas to be recognised at home :-) One challenge with renewable energy sources is they are intermittent and variable, only producing energy when the sun shines or wind blows.

That's why as part of a global partnership we developed the Ultra Battery. It was built by the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan and tested in the United Kingdom through the American-based Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.

A true global collaboration.

It has turned a 150 year-old energy-storage system — into a dynamic technology. It has been commercialised by energy storage solution company ecoult and is being used by Honda in its new Odyssey hybrid model. When we focus our science and technology to solving our greatest challenges we find real solutions.

CSIRO plays a unique role in Australia's ecosystem.

We are more than 100 years old and are one of Australia's most prominent research organisations addressing the energy transition.

Despite our very old property footprint, and actually growing over our strategy, we have reduced our own carbon emissions by 15 per cent, the largest decrease of any strategy; and we have a pathway to reduce our electricity emissions by 50 per cent in the next year or so.

We have a target of Net Zero emissions energy research by 2050. This transition is underway and will involve a shift to decentralised electricity generation with an increased share of renewable energy.

I became a believer in Hydrogen thanks to meeting prime minister Abe at STS in 2015, and subsequent meetings with Chubachi-Sama and Omi-sensi - whose wisdom and vision in energy is profound.

As a consequence, CSIRO doubled our efforts in breakthrough science for H2, then doubled it again.

Australia has the resources and skills to build an economically sustainable domestic and export hydrogen industry which can help meet agreed emissions targets and address concerns around energy security. Scaling up requires capturing and storing carbon which we are testing right now.

The investment in research by commercial partners allows further development of hydrogen technologies, steering us towards a significant export market which could supply the North Asian region. The $20M partnership between CSIRO and Australian minerals company Fortescue Metals Group is a good example of this.

We created a unique membrane material that extracts pure hydrogen from ammonia.. This means the hydrogen can be transported and stored as ammonia, capitalising on existing infrastructure. The membrane allows pure hydrogen to be extracted at point of use, such as a car refuelling station.

In this case the big breakthrough came when the Fortescue Metals Group invested to commercialise this technology with the intention to produce hydrogen domestically.

Japan and Korea, through Toyota and Hyundai saw cars refuelled last year for the first time using the purest hydrogen produced from our liquid Ammonia fuel, from our hydrogen membrane. I'll confess we were very nervous to be trusted with fueling a Toyota - Japanese engineers are renowned for their excellence and exacting standards, more exacting perhaps than the 5 nines purity requirement of your fuel cells - so it was with great pleasure we received the "highly satisfactory" report on our hydrogen fuel, converted from liquid ammonia.

CSIRO's Global Strategy aims to connect Australia to the global science, technology and innovation frontier as well as access new markets for Australian innovation. CSIRO has extensive number of international activities and collaborations around the world.

For us, collaborations are fundamental to the way we work and find solutions to the greatest challenges we face on the planet. We have collaborations with research institutions in the G20 members which include innovations in clean energy technologies and work with 20 per cent of Fortune 500 companies.

For example, the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI) is an $87 million, eight-year global research initiative creating international collaboration with research institutions, industry bodies and universities transforming Australia into a global leader in concentrating solar thermal power technologies.

This has led to solar thermal partnerships with Japan's Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, the Cyprus Institute, Thermal Focus in China and Heliostat SA in Australia.

This is another great example of our research in action; using excellent science to deliver breakthrough innovation, and through global collaboration, increasing renewable energy deliverables.

CSIRO's mission is solving Australia's greatest challenges with science and technology - clean energy is not just a national challenge but a global one. We are focused on increasing Australia's capability in renewables and digital energy technologies, investing in more clean energy growth areas and taking on big projects with strategic partners both in Australia and around the world.

We are excited to be part of Japan's Hydrogen future, and I look forward to hearing more from our existing partners – and those who are yet to become our partners – today.


Learn more about CSIRO's Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Platform.

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