Renewables Out-generating Fossils

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Delegates at the Paydirt 2018 Battery Minerals Conference in Perth heard that investment in renewable generation has eclipsed investment on fossil fuel generation in recent years.

Speaking on day one of the Paydirt 2018 Battery Minerals Conference, Future Smart Strategies managing director, Professor Ray Wills, told punters that since 2016, additions of renewable capacity in the power sector has been higher than coal, gas, oil and nuclear combined.

“Rapid, non-linear developments in and uptake of clean technologies – and even more rapid reductions in technology pricing – mean the nature of the global energy market, and in particular the electricity market, is changing both off-grid and on-grid around the world,” Professor Wills said.

“We are also seeing revolutionary shifts in how we do planning, project financing, and engineering for energy – and downstream into network and energy system management.

“A core difference to the technology now being deployed is its ability to be built quickly – and now more cheaply – than any other source of electricity generation.

“Add ever-increasing digitisation and integration for mobile applications – not just phones and tablets, but also power tools and gaming devices, and for personal mobility – also boosts demand for energy storage.”

According to Wills, the arrival of cost-competitive stationary storage offering network services as well as stored energy can deliver on-demand power provision from renewables.

He said a feature of mobile devices needing power is a perpetual pursuit of both energy efficiency in devices to prolong battery life, and battery density improvements to carry more solar and efficient appliances.

This includes lighting and storage that will demand smart energy management utilising AI and machine learning.

As battery technology improves so too does the falls in battery cost reductions, which continue to be consistently demonstrated with a high probability to continue.

Will said the emergence of electric vehicles, and the batteries that power them, has seen the automotive industry move from a “headline a year” to a “headline a day” in the car industry.

“Beyond the basics of all vehicles going electric, there are so many elements changing in the car industry – part of global mega trends in mobility and connectivity and autonomy and the internet of things,” he said.

“From the point of view of minerals for the storage revolution, it is crucial that action is taken quickly so Australia takes a share of the many new jobs (skilled and semi-skilled) in this two trillion-dollar value chain – an opportunity that might just double Australia’s GDP from a single new industry sector.

“In the age of a digital economy, Australia’s next major growth phase can be delivered by down-streaming and value-adding Australia’s lithium and other energy storage related resources.

“The key change with the new trends is that we have moved on from predicting what might happen in the future to measuring it, seeing it happen.

“The only question is just how fast the growth trend is – fast, very fast – or ludicrous?”


Western Australia Placed to Benefit from Technology Metal Rush

COMMODITY CAPERS: Pundits speaking at the at Paydirt’s 2018 Battery Minerals conference in Perth have painted a rosy future for Western Australia as the country’s centre for battery technology commodity development.

Opening Day One of the conference, WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Johnston highlighted the state’s potential to become a leader in the pending electronic resources boom.

“Strategic imperative for markets to not be overly exposed to single supplier systems has the potential to smooth out the customer base and increase demand for Western Australia’s resources,” Johnston said.

His expectations were echoed across the two days as speakers lined up to sing the praises of WA’s abundant technology metals resources.

According to Midas Engineering Group director/principal consulting engineer Damian Connelly, the expected demand for battery minerals will create a boom in Western Australia, “bigger and more sustained” than the state’s gold boom of the 1990s.

Speaking at day two of Paydirt’s 2018 Battery Minerals conference in Perth, Connelly said the sector was misjudging the full impact that demand for the precious commodity will have in the short to medium term.

“Make no mistake, the demand for battery minerals will create a WA boom bigger and more sustained than the gold boom of the 1990s,” Connelly said.

“The market and financial institutions are underestimating the huge disruptive change and the speed of change occurring in the technology of the battery market.

“The very demanding technical specifications for battery minerals will limit the suitability of some ores.

“With cobalt, nickel, vanadium and manganese, and exciting new technology will produce the demanding pure specifications required.

“Demand is currently exceeding supply and current expansions will still lag behind for a number of years to come.”

Connelly’s warning rang out the day after it was claimed Western Australia could soon become a global hub for battery manufacturing with the state expected to be the only jurisdiction in the country to produce all raw materials for lithium ion battery production.

Minerals Commodities Limited business development manager Daniel Hastings told the conference that with WA expected to become the only jurisdiction in Australia and possibly the world producing all raw materials for lithium-ion battery production – including nickel sulphate, lithium carbonate and hydroxide, and potentially battery anode material – the state will be well positioned to entice battery manufacturers to invest in infrastructure.

“We take the view – like most other companies – that the current energy revolution has just begun and the outlook for battery raw materials is extremely positive,” Hastings said.

Connelly basically agrees – and warned that sector and financial institutions need to act fast to ensure WA maximised this potential.

“The demand for high purity battery grade lithium carbonate is expected to grow significantly in the near term,” Connolly said.

“The lithium-ion battery sector is one of the fastest growing and largest consumers of lithium.

“Lithium-ion batteries have superior energy density, are more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional acid batteries and the cost is falling based on innovation and technical development.

“Demand for battery minerals in WA is expected to grow at intense levels – plans and structures put in place now will heed well for the future.”