Surge for Clean Tech & Funding in Australia

The clean technology sector in Australia is experiencing a surge in its expansion, and the trends for this year points to greater opportunities. Policies and increasing concern from the public on the effects of climate change will spur demand for clean technologies and increasing foreign investments will lead to faster expansion. Trends in technological development and improvement also contribute to growth in the clean technology sector. Read more

By Giles Parkinson (18 March 2013):

The Australian cleantech sector boasts revenue of $29 billion a year and employs 53,000 people, making it larger than Australia’s automative manufacturing industry and one quarter the size of the country’s entire manufacturing sector.

A new study produced by research and advisory firm Australian CleanTech says an analysis of 1,340 Australian cleantech firms shows they were involved in capital transations totalling $1.3 billion in the 2012 calendar year in 126 separate capital transactions.

Australian Cleantech Review 2013 says the cleantech sector, which is defined as products and services that have both economic and environmental benefits, and includes renewable energy, water, waste and recycling, energy efficiency and carbon trading, employs five times as many people per dollar of revenue than general manufacturing. The big growth sectors were in solar, water, energy efficiency and green buildings.

NSW and Victoria were the most active states, with the water, wind, solar and environmental services sectors all generating more than $1 billion in revenue in the last calendar year. Queensland and WA had comparatively little cleantech activity because they focused on mining. Despite accounting for just 0.07 per cent of the total number of registered companies, just 0.7 per cent of the listed company market capitalisation and only 0.5 per cent of the working population, the cleantech sector generated 2.0 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2012, up from 1.8 per cent in 2011.

However, the study’s lead author, John O’Brien, the managing director of Australian Cleantech, says Australian is at risk of falling further behind the world in the cleantech sector, particularly the leading Asian economies.

“The government’s industry development programs in 2012 have provided some assistance to the sector, but we still have a long way to go before we are in the premier league,” O’Brien says.

“We work extensively in China and Korea sourcing investors for the Australian market and the difference in the growth in those markets compared to Australia is huge. We have some great technologies and expertise and we have the opportunity to take these to the world.”

The report includes some forecasts for the cleantech trends for 2013.

The highlights include a prediction that Australia is heading for an emissions trading scheme, rather than a fixed carbon price, whichever party wins government, and that cleantech, largely misunderstood or ignored in Australia, despite its growing size, will come to the attention of more people in 2013, particularly to customers and investors.

And it predicts growing interest in investment from China and South Korea, which it describes as a significant opportunity for the Australian clean-tech sector. A separate story highlighting the likely technology trends in Australia in 2013 can be found here.

Here they are in no particular order:

Politics plays snap: Regardless of the election result, it seems likely that the winner will move from a fixed price to an ETS earlier than the current 2015 to take advantage of the cheaper international certificates. This will lead to cuts to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and some of the ARENA programs.

Industry adopts resource efficiency: Industry is increasingly demanding cleantech solutions that improve their efficiency of operation and have immediate bottom line benefits. Energy Efficiency has been the first target of action but, during 2013, industry will adopt a focus on Resource Efficiency with the inclusion of efficiency solutions for energy, water, waste or materials.

Downside drivers change community conversations: The poor air quality in cities, water shortages in agricultural areas, contaminated land and water, increase severe storm events and many other characteristics will continue to be reported. But during 2013, this will start to take hold in the popular press and start to change the Community Conversations and the consequent political discussions on the need for cleantech

Global Cleantech Temptation: The extent of the global growth and investment into cleantech is largely ignored or misunderstood in Australia. In 2013, there will start to more coverage of the Opportunities of Cleantech that in turn will lead to increasing customer and investor interest in the sector.

Wind energy flies again: With the RET uncertainty resolved, the demand for LGCs increasing from liable entities, turbine prices dropping and more mature investors starting to enter the sector, 2013 is likely to see a significant increase in wind farm development  and construction activity in Australia. (RenewEconomy note: We’d really like to agree but think there is a lot of uncertainty over the Coalition’s position on this – even the right wing of the Labor Party).

Who needs a feed-in tariff? Solar pricing is now reaching a level where it is competitive with off-grid and onsite usage without a feed-in tariff. 2013 will see 5-10 commercial Scale Solar Projects commence construction and start to deliver power late in the year or in early 2014.

New tricks for financial jugglers: Environmental Upgrade Agreement finance has been slow take hold but will make further progress in 2013 through both Government facilitated schemes and through private funds using ESCo models.

Yuan and won flow freely: North Asian investment from China and Korea has started to explore the investment opportunities available in Australia. This is a very significant opportunity for the Australian cleantech sector because as this investment flow accelerates and starts to be seen as the usual way to secure finance, the lack of interest from Australian investors and the small scale of the local VC industry will then start to become irrelevant.


By John Obrien (18 March 2013):

(This is an excerpt from the Australian Cleantech Review 2013 to be released this week. Additional coverage of the report can be found here).

From a technology perspective there are many trends emerging globally that will impact cleantech activities in Australia. There are also some local technology trends that need to be understood and carefully watched. Some of these are detailed below.

Wind Turbine Efficiency

Wind turbine technology is becoming more efficient at lower wind speeds opening up additional wind farm locations and potentially moving away from high profile and often contentious coastal areas. This is being driven by both cheaper sites inland and increasing community resistance to additional wind farms. In 2013 the added pressure of 2km limits already imposed in Victoria and New South Wales and the continuing well-funded and factually inept anti-wind farm campaigns through News Ltd, 2GB, 3AW and other channels will continue to drive wind farms to alternate locations.

Offshore Wind

Offshore wind is growing fast globally and particularly in Europe. However, Australia with large expanses of cheap land is unlikely to see any installation within the next ten years.

Small Wind

Small wind turbine technologies, especially those using a vertical axis, are improving rapidly and large scale roll-outs are likely to be seen over the next few years.

Rooftop PV

Globally and locally, the rate of installation of rooftop solar pV panels will continue to increase despite the reduction in tariffs around the world. The growth in thin film technologies has been set back due to the rapid reduction in cost of polysilicon that has reduced or even removed their cost benefits. This has been seen with the high profile failures of companies such as Solyndra. The conventional PV panels will continue to fall in price through 2013 and may reach less than US$0.55/W for wholesale panels. This compares to nearly $2.00/W at the end of 2010.

Commercial PV

Ground mounted, tracking and commercial roof flat plate solar pV systems of up to 5MW is a growing market segment in Australia. Whilst generally excluded from the feed-in schemes, as the technologies start to approach grid parity, it will be the large installations with greater economies of scale that will be installed first.


The first Building Integrated pV (BIPV) were available in 2011 but are still expensive. 2013 will see the continued price reduction and deployment of these technologies. It will however still be several years before these products are truly competitive on price.

Concentrating Solar

High efficiency solar PV cells for use in concentrating solar systems will continue to improve and lead the concentrating solar industry towards this solution in the longer term.

Energy Storage

Energy storage and smart grid technologies will continue to enter the market during 2013, with some potentially some big breakthroughs in market ready batteries and their battery management systems possible during the year. This is largely being driven by multinationals such as GE, Siemens and Chinese and Korean firms although there are some active smaller Australian companies such as Redflow, Cap-XX, Ecoult and ZEN Energy.

Recycling Technologies

Driven by increasing commodity prices, innovative resource recovery technologies will continue to emerge in 2013 to capture metals from wastewater, plastics reprocessing and other key recycling feedstocks.

Electric Vehicles

The choice for consumers of hybrid and fully electric vehicles will continue to increase in 2013 as new products enter the new markets. The roll-out of recharging networks has taken a step backwards with the demise of Better Place Australia but is likely to help focus the roll out towards home recharging and fast charging and away from the battery swap technology that had many doubters as to its longevity.


With desalination facilities being installed at increasing rates globally, there will be an increasing driver for technologies that improve operational performance through, for instance, reducing power requirements or increasing membrane lives. Australia has a number of groups focussing on these technologies that may emerge in 2013.


Whilst 2013 is likely to see some additional good breakthroughs in cellulosic and possibly even algae technologies, it is unlikely that these will be close to entering the market this year.


It was hoped that 2012 would have seen the long awaited proof of concept for the Hot Dry Rock geothermal industry. Whilst there was some progress, there was little interest as shown by the repeated poor performance of the ACT Geothermal Index. Australian expertise is however being deployed globally and this may make some progress in less challenging environments during 2013.

Waste-to- energy and Biomass

Waste-to-energy and biomass both have massive near-term potential although have to date been hindered by supply chain and feedstock sourcing issues and the perceptions of perceived ‘incineration’ being bad within the community. Once these hurdles are negotiated, it is likely that a good number of projects may be delivered.

Wave and Tidal Energy

With wave and tidal energy, there is much focus on pulling through the best technologies around the world and particularly in Canada, Scotland and Korea. There are a few promising technologies in Australia but appear likely to only succeed if they step early into international partnerships. There appears to an emerging consensus that the likely winners will be entirely undersea to avoid the ‘visual pollution’ arguments besetting the wind industry.

Building Technologies

Building technology uptake and development will continue to be slow which will limit the technology developments coming through. Until property investors grapple with the issue of lifecycle value recuperation, technologies in this area are only going to provide niche market solutions. This is likely to be boosted in 2013 by the ongoing, if slow, roll out of Environmental Finance Agreements to provide the structure for benefits to be shared equitably.

John O’Brien is managing director of Australian Cleantech, a research and advisory firm. The full report will be released this week at functions at Perth and Brisbane.


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