More gas, low-emission technologies and critical minerals will power Australia’s economic growth and energy future, according to a budget blueprint.

Some 140 categories of low-emissions technologies will get access to new tax concessions under expanded “patent box” arrangements set out in the 2022/23 federal budget on Tuesday.

Funding for more than 60 community microgrids in regional and remote areas will mean more Australians can access solar and wind power.

Grants and subsidies for liquid hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, batteries and large-scale solar will continue as part of the $22 billion spend on low-emission technologies through to 2030.

“A low-emissions future with reliable and affordable power is critical to our plan for a strong economy,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told parliament.

But economist Nicki Hutley said significant funds are being thrown at unproven technologies and accelerating polluting gas projects.

“The temporary reduction in fuel excise, while welcome for many households, could perhaps have been better spent on supporting electric vehicles and (electric vehicle) infrastructure investment as well as public and active transport initiatives,” the Climate Council representative said.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt said Australia is responding to global demand for gas and critical minerals.

The budget includes $200 million over five years for a Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative for early to mid-stage projects that will produce the ingredients needed for electric vehicles and a carbon-neutral global economy.

Some $50.5 million over three years will fund a virtual National Critical Minerals Research and Development Centre to build capability in critical minerals processing and supply chains.

“These new initiatives build on previous budget measures to help resource companies gain entry to new export markets and unlock vast gas reserves,” Mr Pitt said.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association CEO Andrew McConville said the budget reaffirmed the long-term role of the oil and gas industry in Australia’s economy and lower emissions future.

He said expanding the patent box concession, additional funding for low emissions LNG, hydrogen production and associated carbon capture and storage infrastructure will contribute to that pathway.

Some $300 million will subsidise low emissions LNG and clean hydrogen production at Darwin, together with equipment for the more contentious carbon capture and storage assets.

“Darwin is positioned to become one of the world’s leading low-cost clean energy hubs,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.

It has access to onshore and offshore natural gas and greenhouse gas storage resources, including the Beetaloo and Petrel basins and the Barossa and Bayu-Undan fields.

Another $50.3 million will fast-track gas pipelines and processing facilities on the east coast.

Some $247.1 million will boost private sector investment in low emissions technologies including hydrogen, and the continued development of a hydrogen Guarantee of Origin scheme.

Newcastle Port will be made “hydrogen ready” with $100 million for investment decision activity and early works.

Responding to green steel demand in Japan and Korea, $200 million has been allocated to increase onshore processing and value-add of iron ore exports.

The Pilbara region gets $200 million for new hydrogen and ammonia manufacturing facilities. Another $100 million goes to the vast region for electricity generation and grid infrastructure.

The measures across industry, energy and emission reduction are expected to support more than 4800 jobs.

But there is nothing to deliver energy efficiency technologies for people on low incomes, the Australian Council of Social Service said.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)