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Australia bids to be battery powerhouse

The federal government is steaming ahead with its plan to foster new clean industries and has unveiled a new strategy to kickstart battery manufacturing.



Australia wants to muscle in on the concentrated battery supply chain to shore up its "economic resilience" and move beyond a dig-and-ship economy.


Half-a-billion dollars has been earmarked to encourage battery production, with a new national battery strategy laying out high-level objectives.


The strategy comes as potential sites for nuclear power stations have emerged as part of an opposition proposal, which has already seen pushback from state leaders.


The battery strategy will be spearheaded by a $532 million initiative to promote more manufacturing of the power units in Australia.


The government believes Australia can become a world leader in battery manufacturing.


Industry Minister Ed Husic said Australia was moving from a "hope for the best" approach for national security to one focused on leveraging advantages and embedding the country into global supply chains.


Mr Husic said batteries were critical to the nation's energy security and its bid to become a clean energy superpower.


"However, battery supply chains are currently among the most concentrated in the world, compromising Australia's economic resilience," the minister wrote the strategy's foreword. 


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the battery strategy was part of a broader manufacturing push under the Future Made in Australia initiative.


"Batteries are a critical ingredient in Australia's clean energy mix," he said.


Anthony Albanese says batteries are a critical ingredient in Australia's clean energy mix.


Climateworks Centre sustainable economies lead Kylie Turner said Australia had all the ingredients needed to create a booming battery industry.


"We've got the manufacturing know-how, trading partners, skilled workforce and globally enviable critical minerals," Ms Turner told AAP.


She said government coordination and more research and development were the missing pieces of the puzzle, and the new strategy and funding "gets us one step closer".


AMP Australia chief economist Shane Oliver was sceptical of the push into battery manufacturing given other countries - and not just China - were already more advanced and able to produce them cheaply. 


The economist said Australia should be taking advantage of inexpensive batteries and green products subsidised by taxpayers elsewhere.


A price on carbon, while politically problematic, would have been the best way to manage decarbonisation and force markets to respond, he added.


Greens leader Adam Bandt said the battery plan was undermined by the government committing to coal and gas projects.


"Even just one new gas mine could wipe out any gains from people putting more batteries and solar in their homes," he said.


The federal opposition has come under pressure to provide detail over its plan to build nuclear power plants.


The locations of up to seven nuclear sites are set to be unveiled in weeks in areas where coal or gas-fired power stations were located.


The areas earmarked included sites in the NSW Hunter Valley, Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Collie in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald  reported.


Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan ruled out any plan to allow nuclear energy in the state and the Liberal opposition similarly had no vision to do so.


"We haven't the seen the details of those plans," Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto said on Thursday. 


Federal opposition energy spokesman Ted O'Brien said nuclear could play a large role in the energy grid.


"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," he told Sydney radio station 2GB.

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