'In our DNA': Projects defining Geelong's green revolution

Jessica Coates

5 Aug 2022

The Project defining renewables revolution

GEELONG’S manufacturing past is embedded in the city’s

identity.


Once one of the largest hubs in Australia, key local leaders say

the city’s adaptable history could hold the key to its future.

According to a report by Ironbark Sustainability, released last

year, the region could grow more than 24,000 new green energy

jobs in sectors ranging from renewable energy generation,

manufacturing and electric transport in only five years.

More than half of those jobs were across construction and

renewable energy and its transmission.

Geelong – whose role as a central hub for shipping and rail in

the 1860s earned it the nickname Pivot City – could be on the

cusp of its next big industrial leap. This week, the federal

government locked in support to put Australia on track for a 43

per cent emissions reduction by 2030, with Climate Change

Minister Chris Bowen making it clear the legislation was a

“floor, not a ceiling” for reductions.

“This legislation is sending the message and I’m delighted that

business and renewable groups and climate groups have

welcomed so strongly the indications this will now pass the

parliament,” Mr Bowen said this week.

Labor’s Powering Australia policy also outlined a plan to boost

the share of renewables in the National Energy Market to 82 per

cent. G21 chief executive Giulia Baggio said the region’s

manufacturing history put it in a prime position to take a

leading role in the transition to renewables.

“It’s in the city’s DNA,” Ms Baggio said. “Geelong has a very

deep, long history of industry and manufacturing.

“We’ve already undergone the transition out of heavy

manufacturing 10-15 years ago, so the city knows how to

transition into new industry.”

A number of green projects, such as Moorabool’s Big Battery,

are under way, while a massive wind farm at Rokewood has

been approved by the state government.

An expanding investment at Deakin University has led the way

for a $50m trailblazer fund to help develop green

manufacturing and the development of new and sustainable

technology at the university’s Geelong Future Economy

Precinct.

Deakin research innovation executive director Ross Mahon said

the future economy precinct could create up to 2000 jobs within

10 years.

“We will create significant new technologies that will position

Deakin and Geelong for the future as well as creating significant

employment within the area,” Mr Mahon said.

Clean Energy Resources, which partnered with Deakin, is

working to divert waste from landfill with a “mission to process

waste with zero emissions”.

With new technology, the company will take end-of-life tyres

and put them through a regasification process where it can

create hydrogen and baseload electricity.

“CER harnesses a range of existing and proven technologies

from around the world to deliver a methodology that is

completely closed loop, recirculates and re-uses gases that

would normally escape as part of the process,” director Steve

Horvat said. “We are able to achieve our vision of zero emissions, zero waste, zero landfill and 100 per cent reusable, beneficial by-products.”


With the company looking to expand into municipal waste, Mr

Mahon said a Geelong solution could wind up helping many

international communities.

“It’s dealing with a huge issue for Australia, because we can no

longer export

end-of-life tyres offshore, and stockpiling them has created

tyre fires in the past,” he said. “And it’s only a stepping stone

for this company, because the next thing that they want to

address after that is commingled plastic waste.”

The City of Greater Geelong last year committed to net zero


emissions by 2035, with its climate plan aiming for “a zero-

emissions, climate-ready city and region”. Surf Coast, Colac-

Otway and Golden Plains shires and the Borough of Queenscliffe


have implemented similar strategies.

At a community level, Geelong Sustainability helped kickstart

feasibility studies for community batteries and set up a

revolving fund to help businesses cut energy bills and reduce

emissions.

A number of major regional players have announced plans to

invest in hydrogen. A Geelong hydrogen technology cluster was

announced last year as part of a national network aimed at

establishing Australia as a global leader.

Last year, GeelongPort announced plans for a $100m green

hydrogen production and distribution hub, while Viva Energy

presented plans for the nation’s first commercial, green

hydrogen vehicle refuelling station.

“Our truck fleets in Australia pretty much run on diesel,” Ms

Baggio said.

“Converting that to green hydrogen will really cut a lot of

emissions out of the atmosphere, and we’ve already got a lot of

major players working on it. With the region in a prime position to take advantage of new

technologies, local leaders have called for more clarity and

assistance in the transition to clean energy.

For Geelong Sustainability president Vicki Perrett, the push to

renewable energy must be inclusive and affordable for

everyone.

“The focus must be to decarbonise, localise and equalise,” Ms

Perrett said.

“Our region does have homeowners and householders who are

at a significant disadvantage, and this must be a transition for

everyone.”

She called on the federal government to provide a cohesive

national plan for transitioning the nation in an equitable

manner.

“A bit like the national cabinet got together and planned during

Covid, that needs to continue on the energy front,” she said.

“We need a nationwide approach.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Ms Baggio, who said greater

investment in the market needed to feature a blend of

government and private sector contributions.

“That’s the framework that’s a bit weak at the moment,” she

said.

“We’ve been looking for that national direction that really gives

certainty and investment into driving clean energy markets

nationally.

“When you look at our region, which has all the

pieces we need to put

together, a national framework will help all of that come

together much more quickly and open the gate to international

players who might be looking for opportunities here as well.”


Government efforts to rewire Australia’s national energy grid

were also seen as crucial.

In recent months, the Geelong community has debated

controversial proposals such as the Viva floating gas terminal

and the Lara waste-to-energy plant.

With Australia’s climate targets almost locked and loaded, Ms

Perrett said the time to cut emissions was now.

“We’re halfway through 2022,” she said.

“We have got to be at least halving our emissions this decade,

and they’re not going down at all, so there’s a lot of work to be

done.”

Mr Bowen was contacted for comment.