Energy and resources - renewing the relationship
Brand new opportunities in trade, investment and technological cooperation present themselves for Australia as Korea shifts focus to renewable energy.
Korea's Hanwha Group is leading the global solar business through two entities within its business arms. The first is Hanwha Q CELLS (NASDAQ: HQCL), one of the worldÂ´s largest and most recognised photovoltaic manufacturers for its high-performance, high-quality solar cells and modules. Hanwha Q CELLS has built its local presence in the Australian clean energy market from its office in North Sydney since 2009 with its primary role as solar module providers in residential, commercial and utility segments. Next, Hanwha Energy has made a number of equity investments in Australia, including the Barcaldine project (25MW) in Queensland and the Bannerton project (110MW) in Victoria. These projects have continued to drive Hanwha Energy's appetite for Australian renewables, resulting in the establishment of a permanent Hanwha Energy office in North Sydney, alongside Hanwha Q CELLS, earlier this year.
As renewable energy's share of the global energy mix continues to increase, so will the role of battery storage. Korea is poised to capitalise on this market. Leading Korean companies such as POSCO, LG, Samsung and SK will ensure Korea becomes one of the world's largest manufacturers of batteries. These Korean conglomerates are increasingly looking to Australia in order to secure supply of critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.
In February 2018, POSCO took a $80 million direct equity stake in Pilbara Resources to secure its supply of lithium. This Australian lithium will be used in their PosLX processing facility, which uses POSCO patented technology to process lithium in just eight hours with 99 per cent purity, compared to existing processes which take several months.
Hydrogen is another energy source that looks likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the bilateral trade and investment relationship. The Korean Government has increased its focus on renewable hydrogen as it seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and adopt a more sustainable energy mix. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel source for cars and ships, and as an energy source. Korea's National Assembly will debate the "Hydrogen Energy Bill" this year and it is anticipated to be legislated early in 2019, providing strong government direction to invest in the industry. To capitalise on Korea's commitment to hydrogen, the Australian Embassy in Seoul is working to position Australia as a potential supplier of clean hydrogen, and as a first-choice collaboration partner in the development of a commercially viable hydrogen export industry.