"Fast 5" interview with Dr Lynette Molyneaux
Dr Lynette Molyneaux is a researcher in climate, energy and industry policy at the University of Queensland. She is also Director of the Advanced Materials and Battery Council (AMBC). Here, she outlines why she has chosen to be a part of the Critical Minerals Conference 2023 organising committee, and why the conference and the subject matter are so vital.
1. Can you tell the readers a little bit about your professional background and current role at the University of Queensland?
I’ve been fortunate to be often at the frontier of societal change from technology shifts. For example early in my career I was a financial planner for the South African IBM PC sector just as IBM was embarking on its PC strategy, a few years later I was a product manager for IBM UK managing the IBM-Lotus relationship as IT shifted towards distributed computing, in New Zealand I managed a start-up Internet News company as the potential of the internet started to emerge. Since coming to Australia, I re-tooled at The University of Queensland to understand the requirements for a global energy transition. This has led me to my current role at The University of Queensland which is to support the Advanced Materials and Battery Council (AMBC). This is because the AMBC is an embryonic association which seeks to support critical minerals and battery-tech start-ups to commercialise in Australia through collaboration between industry, research and government.
2. You are a member of the Critical Minerals 2023 conference committee. Who should be attending this conference and why?
Extraction of critical minerals for the global energy transition is the first step in the process to manufacture and deploy energy storage of all chemistries, technologies and for many different applications. The Hon Ed Husic, Australian Minister for Industry Science and Resources, has promised to deliver a Battery Manufacturing Strategy later this year, which means that Australia no longer plans to simply dig and ship its ores, but will actively seek to develop a supply chain for energy storage in Australia for domestic applications and for export. This requires the development and support for multiple battery chemistry supply chains in Australia to utilise Australia’s world-class resources, research and primary metal manufacturing capabilities. The Critical Minerals 2023 conference will help delegates identify and meet many of the project proponents seeking to participate in the establishment of these supply chains.
3. Is there anything else that people considering attending this conference should know?
The global energy transition requires that we (the global community) explore and bring to production metals at a scale and in timeframes that we have never before achieved. In addition, we need to develop supply chains for those minerals to process and manufacture to the requisite purity required for battery cell manufacturing at similar scale and as fast. If we are to succeed at decarbonising the world by 2050, we need to collaborate across supply chains, countries, disciplines and technologies. Attending this conference will help attendees network with appropriate people to facilitate that collaboration.
4. What is the key challenge facing the critical minerals mining industry? How can we solve it?
As mentioned before there are many challenges facing the critical minerals mining industry – it is too hard to identify only one. But if we are to reduce the time to bring projects to production, and also increase production to meet projected global demand, we need to develop networks of individuals who can help identify the critical path and the people who can facilitate that journey. These are challenges not only for miners, but also for financiers, regulatory bodies, researchers and educators.
5. Australia has a target of Net Zero Emissions by 2050. Do you think this is achievable, and what key changes need to occur across the mining value chain?
a) Net Zero Emissions by 2050 is technically challenging but achievable. The primary impediment to achieving Net Zero Emissions in Australia is regulatory malalignment and rigidity. We have inconsistent approval processes across states and between states and the Commonwealth; our electricity system, market and institutional structures are designed for fossil fuel generation and resistant to a transition to renewable energy; the Australian political system has for more than a decade wrestled with the complexity of an energy transition; we are not well prepared for the required fast sprint to Net Zero Emissions.
b) The key changes required for the mining value chains are simplification of the approval processes (without impacting on good environmental outcomes) within states and between states and the Commonwealth.
Dr Lynette Molyneaux is a researcher in climate, energy and industry policy at the University of Queensland. She is currently a Research Fellow with the Centre for Policy Futures, advancing collaboration between academia, government and industry for the development of an advanced materials and battery sector in Australia. Previously Lynette was an Advance Queensland Fellow investigating Queensland’s resilience to a global energy transition, and the researcher and co-author on the Global Change Institute’s Delivering a Competitive Australian Power System suite of reports. Prior to her academic pursuits, Lynette spent more than 20 years in the IT industry managing an Internet and Business Intelligence start-up in New Zealand, as a brand manager at IBM UK and a financial planner at IBM SA.
To register for Critical Minerals 2023, click here.