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The Lithium Battery Industry in Australia Receives $500 Million Boost

Under the Made in Australia scheme, Australia’s lithium resources will be retained domestically as battery production is scaled up through a significant investment.

The next phase of Australia’s transition away from fossil fuels will involve a substantial investment in a national battery strategy to capitalize on the global growth in clean energy solutions.

Australia is a major producer of lithium in the form of spodumene globally. Currently, most spodumene concentrate mined in Australia is exported, as the country lacks the infrastructure to refine the mineral into battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

However, a government announcement of a $532 million (US$352 million) investment aims to establish Australia as a battery producer. China currently dominates the global lithium battery production, meeting about three-quarters of global demand.

The demand for lithium resources has surged to 85 percent of the total required for electric vehicles in 2023 due to the electrification of transportation and the energy transition towards sustainable power.

As battery demand continues to grow, Industry Minister Ed Husic mentioned to ABC Radio that Australia intends to leverage its existing assets to bring battery production in-house.

“Through this strategy, we aim to highlight that we have excelled in technology supporting batteries and can do more onshore,” he stated.

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“The transition to domestic battery production falls under the overarching strategy of Made in Australia, an innovation initiative aimed at enhancing Australia’s industrial and economic sovereignty, particularly in the shift towards a net-zero economy.

One of its key objectives is to prioritize renewable energy projects, with $1.7 billion already allocated to target green metals, batteries, and low-carbon liquid fuels and strengthen mineral supply chains.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese echoed Mr. Husic’s sentiments, stating, “Batteries are an essential component of Australia’s clean energy mix.”

Federal Energy Minister Ed Husic thinks Australia should be doing battery production "on-shore." (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Federal Energy Minister Ed Husic thinks Australia should be doing battery production “on-shore.” (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Opposition Supports Moving To Nuclear Power

The decision to focus Australia on a future powered by clean energy is at odds with the position of the federal opposition, which has backed nuclear power as the solution to eliminating emissions and reaching net-zero targets.

Shadow Energy Minister Ted O’Brien has suggested that with the right framework, nuclear power could be operational in Australia by the mid-2030s, but any implementation of it would extend beyond the target dates set down for net zero to be achieved.

The opposition plans to unveil seven proposed sites for new nuclear installations in the next few weeks.

Mr. O’Brien told 2GB that nuclear energy was an adequate replacement for power generated by coal and refuted a study that suggested nuclear power would ultimately be more expensive to produce.

“As coal exits the system for our electricity grid, there’s an opportunity for us to replace it with like-for-like, 24/7, always-on power, coming from zero-emissions nuclear energy plants. ”

“We’re interested in the Australian consumer, the Australian business, what’s actually going to get prices down,” Mr. O’Brien said.

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