ANU drives zero carbon energy for the Asia-Pacific

Photo: Shutterstock Wind, solar energy
7 January 2022

With a list of annual achievements that includes securing more than $10 million in funding and setting a world record, it’s fair to say that 2021 was a good year for the Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific (ZCEAP) initiative.

ZCEAP is a strategic Grand Challenge initiative of The Australian National University (ANU), delivering an inter-disciplinary research program to support a sustainable transition to zero-carbon energy in the Asia-Pacific.

The initiative aims to help catalyse the development of major export industries based on Australia's massive renewable energy resources. It will use research and engagement to help develop technologies, policies and approaches that can be applied in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

Professor Ken Baldwin, founding director of ZCEAP calls 2021 “a year of significant progression” for the Grand Challenge.

“The team secured a co-operative research centre partnership with Adelaide University in Heavy Industry Low-carbon Technology (HILT CRC), which will bring $10 million in research funding to ANU,” said Prof Baldwin.

“This will provide a major boost to the research program on renewably refined metals, such as green steel and aluminium, and will help the Grand Challenge achieve its goal of providing industry with the underpinning knowledge to transform our mineral-ore exports into green metal exports.”

Professor Baldwin also reports research by Grand Challenge team members achieved an unprecedented efficiency in the direct solar hydrogen generation, setting a new world record in the process.

“A record 20% efficiency in direct conversion from sunlight into hydrogen stored energy was achieved using an innovative combination of low-cost solar cells and earth abundant catalysts – a potential competitor to the normal electrolysis process,” said Professor Baldwin.

Incoming ZCEAP Director, Professir Frank Jotzo, who took over from Professory Baldwin at the start of 2022, points out that the initiative is in a strong position to have impact.

“The Grand Challenge has a strong group of researchers working on cutting edge topics that are directly relevant to industry and governments. We will build on this foundation, taking our research-based insights to our networks for maximum positive impact.

“Australia and the world have so much to gain by expanding zero carbon energy supply quickly, efficiently and fairly, putting new technology to the best use for society,” he said.

Associate Director for Research, Dr Emma Aisbett, highlighted that ZCEAP’s work on governance frameworks to support net-zero trade and investment expanded rapidly in 2021.

“Leveraging publications in top field journals in both energy and international law, the team undertook impactful consulting work, presented at numerous high-profile events, drafted policy briefs and submissions, and applied for major funding,” said Dr Aisbett.

“This is part of a broad and deep portfolio of research in the Grand Challenge that spans natural science, engineering, economics and social science. Collaborations across disciplines are at the heart of the ZCEAP’s mission,” she concluded.