Industry has a variety of impacts on the environment as a result of the resources it uses, the pollution and waste it produces, and the direct footprint of its activities. The nature and extent of the impact depend on the industry itself, where it operates, and how well it is regulated and managed.

Assessment Industry
2021 Assessment graphic showing that pressures are low, meaning they minimally degrade state of the environment, over a small extent and/or with low severity. The situation is stable.

Industrial pressures, such as resource use, production of waste, pollution and habitat loss, all impact ecosystems and biodiversity. Land clearing and grazing for agriculture have some of the greatest impacts. Across Australia, however, industrial pressures are generally low, but can be very high at local scales.
Assessments of impact range from low to very high
Assessments of trend range from deteriorating to improving
Related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets 6.3, 8.9, 11.3, 11.4, 11.6, 12.1, 12.2, 12.4, 13.2, 14.1, 14.2, 14.4, 14.6, 15.3, 15.8


A major pressure on the environment comes from human activity related to supplying our growing cities and towns with goods and services, in terms of both direct transport of goods and the associated development of transport networks.

As the built environment expands, so too does infrastructure for service networks to support and connect population centres. Often overlooked, the massive infrastructure that makes up Australia’s transport routes (roads, rail) continues to expand and have impacts on nearby ecosystems. Australia’s road network could wrap around the world 22 times (Infrastructure Australia 2019), making it a significant land use. Since 2016, our road network has continued to increase its footprint, with impacts on adjoining natural areas. These impacts include incremental loss of remnant roadside vegetation, particularly as habitat for biodiversity in agricultural and peri-urban landscapes. The road network can also facilitate the spread of invasive non-native species – for example, poor hygiene protocols in mowing regimes spread weeds and cause degradation of suitable habitats for biodiversity. This pressure is now recognised by many local governments; in Victoria, the Peri-urban Weed Management Partnerships program (a partnership between state and local governments) provides $4 million of funding over 4 years to protect native plant and animal species in Melbourne’s peri-urban areas from high-risk weeds by working with the local community to identify native habitats on public land (including road verges) that have significant environmental and community value.

Millions of animals are struck by vehicles and killed on Australian roads every year. Road mortality is the second biggest killer of Endangered Tasmanian devils, with around 350 killed every year (Huon Valley Council 2019), and the largest cause of death of adult Endangered cassowaries in Queensland (Kofron & Chapman 2006). Between 2006 and 2017, there were 31,626 admissions of 83 species of wildlife to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Queensland (Taylor-Brown et al. 2019). Car strikes were the most common reason for admission (35%).

Australia relies on sea transport for 99% of its international trade by volume (DIRD 2016). From 2016 to 2020, the number of cargo vessels using Australian waters grew by about 2% per year (BITRE 2020). Sea transport depends on reliable access to our ports and shipping channels, which periodically require dredging. This is a constant pressure and inflicts major environmental damage in the ‘dredging footprint’; species within the dredged sediment are physically disturbed as they are removed, and the dumping of dredged spoils can smother or bury seabed habitats. Generally, the overall impact of this pressure in Australia is low, but impacts can be high at local scales. Such impacts include the resuspension of sediment, which increases turbidity and decreases light, jeopardising the survival of photosynthetic organisms. This is particularly important in areas with key primary-producing habitat-forming species, such as coral reefs and seagrasses. Resuspended sediment can also release contaminants such as heavy metals into the water column, affecting filter-feeding organisms. Dredging levels in 2016 were high. Silt curtains usually used to contain suspended sediments are rarely completely effective and can create extremely turbid conditions within the curtains.

International transport is also Australia’s main source of introductions of non-native species and diseases (see Invasive species and range shifts and Invasive species management). Annually, as at 2018, more than 18,000 vessels, 1.8 million sea cargo consignments, 41 million air cargo consignments, 152 million international mail items and 21 million passengers arrive in Australia, and numbers are growing every year (Inspector-General of Biosecurity 2019b). As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, international air passenger arrivals declined by 98% in 2020, but freight decreased by only 23% and shipping was much less affected; some Australian ports now exceed 2019 trade volumes (Infrastructure and Transport Ministers 2020). A National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases (the Exotic Environmental Pest List) has been developed to facilitate activities that help prevent entry, establishment and spread of exotic pests, weeds and diseases (ABARES 2020b). Exotic invasive species are those species not yet present in Australia.

As well as commercial vessels, many smaller vessels use Australian waters and provide an important recreational pastime for many Australians. Marine vessels can cause environmental damage from collisions or grounding, exhaust, noise pollution, fuel spills and microplastic pollution from antifouling coatings (Dibke et al. 2021). They can also carry invasive species in ballast water and on their hulls. Anchors can damage seabed habitats, and marine fauna, particularly whales, are at risk of ship strike. Most impacts are local, and risks can be mitigated through effective management. However, indirect impacts from shipping, such as the introduction of invasive pests, remain a substantial pressure. Shipping-related infrastructure and activities (ports and dredging) also represent a substantial and growing pressure as the number of vessels increases.

Resource extraction

For more than 200 years, different forms of resource industry have modified our lands and seas, particularly agriculture, aquaculture, commercial fishing, mineral exploration and mining. They have also resulted in significant destruction of Australia’s heritage, particularly Indigenous heritage. Many of these impacts have also caused a dramatic decline in our biodiversity, and have adversely impacted ecosystem services that provide social, ecological and economic benefits to people.


One of the greatest impacts on the environment caused by agriculture is the land clearing that occurs to convert land from native vegetation to agricultural land use (see Land clearing).

Ongoing pressures from agriculture are immense. As of 30 June 2017, approximately half of Australia’s land mass was used for agricultural production, mostly for grazing (340.8 million hectares), cropping and improved pastures (66.6 million hectares), and forestry and other practices (0.9 million hectares) (ABS 2018). More than 50,000 agricultural businesses applied 5 million tonnes of fertiliser to 50 million hectares of agricultural land across Australia in 2016–17. Agricultural activity (e.g. cropping, livestock grazing, wood plantations) is the third most commonly listed threat to species listed under the EPBC Act, affecting 57% of taxa (Kearney et al. 2018). For example, land degradation causes a decline in soil microbial activity, and agricultural practices have major impacts on the composition of microbial communities (Gellie et al. 2017).

Australian rangelands experience Australia’s most extensive agricultural activities and have been significantly degraded as a result of weeds and overgrazing by introduced herbivores, often combined with drought (Foran et al. 2019). However, they also have active Indigenous cultures, areas of relatively intact biodiversity and mining industries. More than 10% of rangelands are protected in the conservation estate, and more than one-third is under some form of exclusive Indigenous land tenure. A major ongoing issue is the spread of non-native pasture grass species. For example, buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) occurs over 60% of the continent, and directly impacts many native plant and animal species that may be threatened with extinction (Godfree et al. 2017).

Substances such as pesticides and chemical pollutants from agriculture are suspected of causing 8% of fish deaths in coastal and inland catchments in New South Wales over the past 20 years, entering the system through spray drift, vapour transport and run-off. Pollution also impacts the viability of sperm, eggs and larvae, and increases the incidence of abnormalities, skeletal defects, growth reduction and reduced life expectancy (DPI 2021). Overall, there are limited data nationally from which to extrapolate a trend over the past 5 years.

In south-eastern Australia, the greatest impact on freshwater ecosystems is from the modification of water processes as a result of river regulation, surface water and groundwater extraction for irrigation, and other water resource developments. Although water use was lower in many of the past 5 years (due to reduced water availability), and progress has been made in addressing the balance between water use and the environment in overallocated systems, significant issues remain (see Freshwater ecosystems and Water resources).

Water temperature affects the spawning, breeding and migration patterns of many aquatic species. Large dams storing water for agricultural and urban use can cause downstream thermal pollution, which can affect many biological and ecosystem processes. When water is released from the cold, bottom layer of a dam, it can result in much colder water temperature than normal, with negative impacts on fish recruitment, and potentially on ecosystem productivity and carbon cycling. Conversely, the removal of riparian vegetation reduces shading, causing river water temperatures to increase. Higher temperatures can result in increased solubility of salts and decreased solubility of oxygen, and increase the growth rates of microbes, animals, plants and algae. Furthermore, land clearing and erosion can lead to an increase in the turbidity of inland waters, reducing light penetration, negatively impacting some plants and fish, favouring the growth of blue–green algae, and potentially mobilising pollutants such as heavy metals and nutrients.

Aquaculture and fishing

Aquaculture production is growing globally and in Australia; 38% of Australian seafood production is currently ‘farmed’, including salmon, barramundi, bluefin tuna, rainbow trout, prawns, oysters, mussels, abalone and high-value pearls. Increased nutrient loads from aquaculture, particularly fed fish farming, can have significant impacts on the seabed and surrounding water quality (Black 2001); if not managed effectively, they can result in eutrophication (excess nutrients, which may cause harmful algal blooms). However, impacts depend on many local factors, such as farm site and design management processes. Despite industry growth, the pressures of aquaculture are generally low, and most impacts are confined to small areas.

In Australia, commercial fishing is considered to be well regulated. The sustainability of commercial harvesting in Australia’s diverse wild-caught marine fisheries has improved since 2016, with 86% of stock assessed in 2020 classified as not overfished; however, these assessments are based on fisheries-dependent data and are subject to model assumptions. Some Australian jurisdictions are working to implement spatially referenced data collection and develop fisheries management plans for key species (e.g. mackerel and saucer scallops in Queensland) (Mobsby et al. 2020). Australian commercial fisheries catch scallops, prawns, crabs, squid, rock lobster, abalone, coastal fish such as whiting and flathead, reef fish such as coral trout, shelf and deepwater fish such as ling and blue-eye trevally, and oceanic tuna and billfish, using methods ranging from small-scale netting to large-scale longline fishing and trawling (FRDC 2018, Pitcher et al. 2021).

The impact of commercial fishing varies across regions and with the type of gear used. The greatest fishing intensity occurs in the east and south-east. Bycatch (nontarget) species mostly consist of other fish or invertebrate species but can also include protected or migratory species such as seahorses, sharks, sea snakes, marine turtles, seabirds and marine mammals. Although a framework has been developed and applied for assessing the ecological impacts of fishing on nontarget species (Hobday et al. 2011), a national analysis of the cumulative impacts of commercial fishing on marine habitats has not been completed. Over the past 5 years, fishing effort has declined in Australia’s trawl fisheries in all marine regions, consistent with a long-term trend of reduced trawl footprints. Of concern is ongoing foreign illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Australia, which mostly occurs in northern Australian waters (i.e. north of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland), and in the Southern Ocean around Australia's subantarctic Heard Island and McDonald Islands (Vince et al. 2020).

Although fishing is generally considered a pressure on the environment, customary fishing by Indigenous people should not threaten nature and sustainability if the Indigenous principles of lore and custodianship are followed and there are no other major pressures. Customary fishing is hunting, gathering and fishing of marine and coastal species for personal, subsistence, communal, ceremonial, spiritual or trade purposes. It is also known as traditional use, cultural harvest or cultural fishing. Traditional Custodian groups along the Australian coastline continue an ancient connection with sea Country, and customary fishing occurs over a large area of Australia (Schnierer et al. 2016). Customary fishing practices are not static; they vary between communities and over time in line with changes in lore and customs, as well as with modern practices and environmental changes. Methods are often low-impact activities carried out from shore or from small boats, and customary catch is expected to be relatively small for most stocks (Productivity Commission 2016).

In contrast, the intensity of mainstream recreational fishing activities can pose a threat to both fish stocks and marine biodiversity, at least at a local scale (Henry & Lyle 2003, Stuart-Smith et al. 2008, van Putten et al. 2017, Edgar et al. 2018, Little et al. 2019). Compared with global levels, participation levels for recreational fishing in Australia are high (Arlinghaus et al. 2015, Hyder et al. 2018, Lynch et al. 2021). Furthermore, although participation levels have remained stable or declined, fishing power has substantially increased as a result of continual improvements in technologies (Lynch et al. 2021). Although trends vary across regions, recreational fishing generally has a high impact on the marine environment. For some species, the proportion of the catch taken by recreational fishers can be large, at times rivalling or exceeding the harvest from commercial fisheries. Fishery‐independent survey data have shown recent declines of nearshore harvested species (Edgar et al. 2018), which suggest that the impacts of recreational fishing on shallow-water inshore environments should be of concern (Little et al. 2019). Recreational fisheries, although often licensed, are open access with no cap on participation. Except for a small number of no-take marine reserve and fisheries closures, most coastal and marine waters are available to fishers (Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2014, Kenyon et al. 2018). The distributed nature of this pressure means that further work to understand small-scale variation in fisher behaviour and the consequent pressure on our estuaries and coasts is needed (Griffin et al. 2021).

Antarctica is a productive fishing ground that is closely managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which sets opening and closing dates for fishing seasons, and catch limits for each fishery and each geographic area. The Antarctic fishery for krill (used in aquaculture, pharmaceuticals and human consumption) is the largest commercial fishery in the Southern Ocean. These tiny crustaceans are a keystone species for Antarctic ecosystems because they graze on micro-size phytoplankton and then become the primary food source for predators such as seabirds, fish, penguins, seals and whales. Krill catches have increased over the past 2 decades, but have been sustainably managed by CCAMLR. However, krill is vulnerable to environmental changes, particularly climate change (Kawaguchi et al. 2013), and any resulting reduction in krill populations, or overfishing, would have major impacts on Antarctic species. Large deepwater Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish and mackerel icefish are also commercially harvested within precautionary catch limits.


Mining activity in Australia continues to grow. Over the past 5 years, investment in mineral exploration doubled from $344.7 million in June 2016 to $878.3 million in June 2021. Beyond the direct footprint of mines, impacts include waste discharge and pollution (including dust and aerosols), chemical emissions and acids, sediment transport, and rehabilitation. Mining impacts on air quality vary considerably, depending on the operations.

Mining affects biodiversity and natural heritage at scales ranging from the area of mineral extraction to processes operating at landscape to regional scales and beyond. Habitat loss and degradation are the most immediate and direct impacts, with flow-on impacts that change species distributions and ecosystem condition. Mining activities – such as mineral exploration, resource excavation, and groundwater drawdown and reinjection – can threaten the viability of certain species, such as subterranean fauna.

Land-based mining is among the major Australian heavy industries with the largest levels of emissions (DAWE 2020d), including carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), coarse particulate matter (PM10) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, some mining uses nonregulated diesel engines (NRDE). Although NRDE make up only around 3% of on-road vehicle numbers (DAWE 2020c), their much bigger sizes mean that they usually emit much more CO, nitrogen oxides (NOx), PM and VOCs than other road vehicles. Impacts on air quality from mining can last for centuries because some human-made emissions do not break down easily. Mercury used in goldmining during the mid- to late 1800s is still being cycled through the atmosphere via soil and vegetation processes.

Australia continues to bear the legacy of tens of thousands of orphaned or abandoned mines that pose an ongoing risk to the environment, public health and safety (Campbell et al. 2017). The cumulative impact of past practices, as well as present activities, is substantial and not well understood, with significant legacy issues remaining unaddressed (Roche & Judd 2016).

Much of Australia’s mining occurs on land that is subject to land rights and native title. For example, more than 80% of the mineral value extracted in the Northern Territory comes from Indigenous-owned land (NLC 2021). Nationally, more than 60% of operating mines are located near Indigenous communities (MCA 2021). Mining impacts Indigenous caring for Country and can damage Indigenous heritage (Australian Government 2016), as revealed by the 2020 destruction of Juukan Gorge (see Indigenous heritage). Mining activities also impact historic heritage; historic mining heritage is particularly at risk from mine rehabilitation.

Industrial pollution

Mining, steel production, metal processing, power generation and petroleum refining produce the highest air pollutant emissions in Australia (DAWE 2020d), including CO, SO2, PM10 and VOCs. Agricultural operations such as feedlots emit large volumes of ammonia that react in the atmosphere, forming inorganic particulate compounds such as ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate, which contribute to PM2.5 levels. Other industries generate airborne toxins such as hydrochloric acid, cyanide, dioxins and furans.

Industrial emissions are generally well controlled across Australia, and there have been recent improvements in the emissions of hazardous substances such as lead and mercury. Industrial emissions of CO and NOx generally increased from 2015 to 2019, but most others decreased or remained steady. However, the impacts from point sources and industrial air pollutants near regional populations are increasing.

In coastal regions, the naturally nutrient-poor waters of productive, sheltered estuaries and bays are at particular risk from industrial pollution because of high levels of human activity and growing populations. The resulting nutrient-rich run-off (e.g. wastewater, fertilisers) and other organic pollution can lead to excessive growth of nuisance or harmful algae (Davis & Koop 2006), and deoxygenation of the water in extreme cases. Although nutrient pollution levels have remained high overall across Australia since 2016, there have been reductions in nutrient inflows from wastewater treatment plants. However, results vary considerably between regions.

In Queensland, some 423,000 square kilometres of land drains into the sensitive Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Pollution risks are highly variable, as land use for this area includes cattle grazing (72% of the area); conservation (15%); other agriculture (6%); forestry (5%); mines, wastewater treatment plants, landfills, industrial and commercial sites (2%); and residences for some 1.2 million people (0.3%) (ABS 2017a, Queensland Government 2020).

Anti-fouling paints, coal dust, metals and metalloids, marine debris, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and petroleum hydrocarbons were recently identified as emerging concerns for Reef waters (Kroon et al. 2020). In 2017, more than 5,000 organic chemicals were detected in green turtle blood samples collected at 3 sites in the Reef lagoon. Although overall pressures from chemicals entering the Reef lagoon are low and stable overall, localised impacts range from very high to low.

Other forms of industry-related marine pollution of national concern include land-based nutrients, pesticides, sediment inputs and hydrocarbons (Gagnon 2021, Trebilco 2021). These pollutants cause a wide variety of impacts on marine plants and animals, including reduced photosynthetic activity, endocrine disruption, reduced immunity, modified behaviour and mortality. The 2 main sources of sediment input are run-off from land and dredging, including disposal of dredged material at sea. Improvements over the past 5 years have included a shift to land-based disposal of dredged materials; better land management, resulting in some reduction in the flow of land-based sediments and contaminant over inshore reefs; and the mandatory use of low-sulfur fuels by ships in Australian ports from December 2016, and at sea from January 2020. Despite some improvements, poor water quality as a result of land-based run-off remains one of the 3 most significant pressures on the Great Barrier Reef (GBRMPA 2019), and a significant pressure on inland waters in all urban and agricultural environments. Urban environments continue to be sites of substantial pollution that can enter waterways via stormwater run-off. This pressure increases with urbanisation; however, effective management via litter traps and constructed wetlands is reducing pressure in some cities.

New wastes are emerging as a result of new industries, and new chemicals are emerging as contaminants in wastes and with increased regulatory understanding of chemical hazards (Latimer 2019). The most high-profile of these are PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances), a group of human-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a variety of domestic products and in aqueous film-forming foam used in fighting liquid fuel fires (Australian Government 2021b). Increased environmental levels of PFAS have been found near some industrial areas, effluent outfalls and landfill sites (Australian Government 2021b). PFAS are toxic, are highly mobile in water, can travel long distances from their source, and do not fully break down naturally in the environment (COAG 2019, COAG 2020). Although the potential risks of PFAS contamination on the environment and human health are not yet fully understood, all Australian governments have agreed a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan on the regulation of PFAS-contaminated sites (HEPA 2020). Implementation is undertaken by each jurisdiction as part of its broader environmental regulation responsibilities.

Discharge from power plants or other industrial sites into river systems can increase water temperatures, which can impact the spawning, breeding and migration patterns of many aquatic species (DPIE 2020). Changes in microclimates, contamination from pollutants and hydrocarbons, and increased nutrient loads are added threats to subterranean fauna, especially stygofauna and other entities in groundwater-dependent ecosystems (Hose et al. 2015, Hose & Stumpp 2019, Castaño-Sánchez et al. 2020).

Flaring of waste gas associated with oil and gas remains a contributor to overall greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, Western Australia became the first Australian jurisdiction to join the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative to manage natural gas resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions more efficiently. One project on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia is set to become the largest single carbon pollution emitter, at 4.4 million tonnes per year, initially increasing Western Australia’s total annual emissions by 5% (The Australia Institute 2021). However, the company’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program commits it to a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

Noise pollution is another form of industrial pollution. Human-induced noise in the marine environment can disrupt normal behaviours of marine life; induce stress; and adversely impact foraging, reproduction and overall population health (de Soto et al. 2013, de Jong et al. 2020). Sound is important for communication among species, alerting individuals to predators (or prey) and enabling animals to navigate the marine environment and locate particular features (Tyack & Clark 2000, Montgomery et al. 2006, Popper & Hawkins 2019). The largest source of persistent, chronic, anthropogenic noise is shipping; oil and gas exploration activities are the main source of acute impulsive noise. However, noise generally has a low impact on the marine environment. Since 2016, noise associated with shipping has increased, and noise associated with oil and gas exploration has decreased (Evans et al. 2021c).

Energy production

Power generation from fossil fuels and petroleum refining are among the major Australian heavy industries with the largest greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels accounted for 94% of Australia’s primary energy mix in 2018–19. The overall growth in energy demand and the cost of electricity is requiring a change in methods of energy generation, with a growing proportion being sourced from renewable sources. In 2020, 33.6% of total emissions nationally were from the electricity sector, making it the largest single contributor to emissions nationally. However, emissions from the electricity sector have generally been declining since 2009, largely because of an increasing share of renewables in electricity generation and a consequent decrease in the share of other forms of power generation, particularly coal.

Renewables offer opportunities for low-cost, low-emissions energy; however, they present challenges in ensuring the security, reliability and affordability of the power system. The trial and rollout of localised household and industrial batteries is one way of addressing these challenges. There has also been a change in the design of our energy systems, with a move from a centralised model of energy production and storage towards a more distributed approach. This is occurring at the same time as a transition away from a coal-fired energy sector to a more decarbonised one.

Renewable electricity generation in Australia has more than doubled over the past 10 years, and 20.9% of electricity in Australia was generated from renewable sources in 2019 (Figure 17). The average annual growth of wind energy is particularly high (around 15%) (DISER 2021d). At the end of 2018, there were 94 wind farms in Australia, delivering nearly 16 gigawatts of wind generation capacity; a further 8 wind farms were commissioned in 2019 (ARENA 2021). The growth of onshore coastal wind farm developments represents a significant land-use change within the Australian coastal zone. Wind farms contribute to mortality of bird and bat species; however, on average, the impacts appear relatively small compared with other pressures, although consolidated data are very limited. Coastal wind farms could potentially have a detrimental affect on migratory bird species, including Endangered and Critically Endangered species such as the curlew sandpiper, far eastern curlew and red knot; but there are insufficient data at this time to draw any definitive conclusions.

Figure 17 Sources of energy, 2008–09 to 2018–19; and average annual change by category, 2009–10 to 2018–19

Oil and gas exploration and extraction activities constitute the largest economic sector, by value, of Australia’s marine industries, with an estimated combined value of $36.3 billion in 2017–18 (AIMS 2021). Natural gas production is becoming the largest contributor ($30.3 billion in 2017–18), and oil and gas are decreasing. During 2015–20, oil production ceased at several marine facilities, and natural gas production commenced at 3 facilities in offshore waters. Production of crude oil declined in volume, and production of condensate and liquefied petroleum gas increased in volume (DISER 2020b). As the oil sector continues to mature, it can be expected that oil exploration and production activities will decrease and decommissioning activities will grow (NOPSEMA 2020, Evans et al. 2021a). Figure 18 shows the changing contributions of the different energy subsectors to CO2 emissions.

Figure 18 Energy sector CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2020, with projections to 2030

Only small-scale (less than 500 kilowatt) experimental or prototype wave and tidal technologies have been deployed in Australia (Hemer 2021b, Hemer 2021a). Several development proposals for large offshore wind farms (more than 100 megawatts) are in progress, the most mature of which is for offshore eastern Victoria. Given the limited deployments, current pressures on the marine environment associated with offshore renewable energy are localised and sparse. However, the pressures are expected to increase, given the need to transition to renewable energy systems.

Case Study The 10 Gigawatt Vision

Monica Tan and Jane Carter, Beyond Zero Emissions

Published in 2019, the 10 Gigawatt Vision is a comprehensive plan to use abundant sunshine and low-cost solar energy to transform the Northern Territory’s economy. Developed in a partnership between Beyond Zero Emissions and the Environment Centre NT, the report shows that, by 2030, the Northern Territory Government could drive investment in 10 gigawatts of renewable energy, creating more than 8,000 jobs and $2 billion in new annual revenue. The report also showed how home electricity bills could fall by one-third by 2030, and electric vehicles could save households as much as 80% off transport fuel bills. 

The Northern Territory Government has incorporated large parts of the plan in its climate and energy policies, and the report won the 2020 Environmental Philanthropy Award sponsored by Philanthropy Australia. This vision for the Northern Territory is demonstrated by Australia’s most ambitious renewable energy project: Sun Cable’s Australia–ASEAN Power Link, which, if built, will be one of the world’s largest dispatchable renewable electricity systems, supported by the world’s largest battery and solar farm in the Barkly region near Tennant Creek.

The vision depends upon meaningful engagement and negotiation with, and informed consent of, Traditional Owners across the Northern Territory. It could support Indigenous people’s aspirations for economic development through opportunities such as community ownership of renewable infrastructure.

Figure 19 Solar panel array, Northern Territory