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Australia and USA Sign MoU to Collaborate on Energy

Image Credits: CSIRO, Press Release

A new agreement between Australia and the United States will see greater international research collaboration in areas related to renewable energy, electricity grids, hydrogen and plastic waste. Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a leader in clean energy research, development and deployment.

The agreement was signed at the Sydney Energy Forum today by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall and NREL Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology and Chief Research Officer Dr Peter Green.

Dr Marshall noted that this partnership represents a shared commitment from two leading energy research bodies to work together to help drive scientific and technical innovation across nationwide energy systems.

It builds on the existing collaboration between the two organisations in solar, energy resilience, the Global Power System Transformation Alliance and plastics research. It is closely aligned to Australia’s national interests, including in hydrogen and grid resilience as well as CSIRO’s major research missions to help end plastic waste and build Australia’s clean hydrogen industry.

In addition, the partnership, through CSIRO’s shared national labs, paves the way for new opportunities for Australian science institutions to partner with US national labs and industry to lead on cutting-edge research that will lower the cost of net zero energy technologies at a global scale.

NREL’s Dr Peter Green noted that they are excited about this MoU, which will facilitate expanded collaboration between our two research institutions. Together the aim is to leverage the significant intellectual, research, and infrastructure capabilities of both institutions to address some of the most pressing challenges associated with achieving the global energy transition.

It was noted that under the agreement, CSIRO and NREL will initially focus on four areas of strategic importance to Australia: hydrogen, global power system transformation (G-PST), plastics, and an accelerator/incubator program for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that has the potential to transform our global energy future. The agreement transforms the agencies’ existing relationship from one based on individual projects to a comprehensive program of solution-driven science, research and innovation.

Renewables remain the cheapest new-build electricity generation option in Australia, although inflation and supply chain disruptions will likely put cost reductions on hold for the next year, CSIRO’s annual GenCost report found.

Each year, Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), work with the industry to give an updated cost estimate for large-scale electricity generation in Australia. The report considers a range of future scenarios to understand the mix of technologies that may be adopted and the costs for each of these possible pathways.

The 2021-22 report confirms past years’ findings that wind and solar are the cheapest source of electricity generation and storage in Australia, even when considering additional integration costs arising due to the variable output of renewables, such as energy storage and transmission.

Projections in the report assume that cost reduction for all technologies will stall for the next 12 months because tight global supply chains will require more time to recover from the pandemic. However, after the current inflationary cycle ends, solar, wind, and batteries are all projected to keep getting cheaper.

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