GLOBAL energy markets will need around $50 trillion in new investment to fund expected growth in energy demand over the next two decades, according to Rio Tinto non-executive director and former CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark. The energy market is expected to grow by 40% through until 2035 with that higher consumption continuing to rely in part on baseload fossil fuels.

AusIMM Clark

The 42nd Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture was delivered by Dr Megan Clark.

The estimates came with a warning that infrastructure underpinning electricity grids will have to fundamentally change. Central to this shift will be developing new renewable energy storage technologies and embracing cutting-edge technologies in the pipeline, with much being led by Australia.

Megan Clark made the comments in delivering the AusIMM 42nd Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture. She said global energy sectors were poised for a revolution driven by the strong strategic forces of supply/demand, technological development, social expectations and geopolitics.

“The current global demand picture for energy is strong. Primary energy demand accounts for 7% of global GDP. Emerging markets are expected to show growth in demand for coal and for oil, the latter being driven by rising incomes, urbanisation and more cars.

“Around $50 trillion in energy investments will be needed to meet this demand. How this investment is made will write the script of our energy future.

“Technology has also rapidly progressed where genetics, robots and artificial intelligence are all happening now in mining – and Australia is leading the way in many areas.

“Renewables now account for around 50% of all new power generation, and 2015 saw a record of 121GW of combined solar and wind power capacity installed. Wind and solar are now competitive without subsidies.”

Megan Clark went on to say, “Australia’s mining industry has to ask itself what it needs to do to be partners and helpers in building a more equal and sustainable world. Among that will be the need for more collaboration on major problems like climate, water and supply chains.

“In places like Australia and Mongolia water is precious, which is why the industry supports work by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO who are looking at the structure of the Great Artesian Basin for the first time in 30 years. These basin-scale projects provide an important context for our miners for local water use.

“The mining industry must also continue to tackle water recycling with Rio’s Oyo Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia a good example, reaching a benchmark of 84% recycled water.”