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Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm calls on Australia to build more battery refineries

Key Points

  • 💡 Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm emphasizes the need for Australia to build battery refineries and factories.
  • 💰 Denholm sees a trillion-dollar opportunity for Australia in the renewable energy and critical mineral sector.
  • 🌏 Australia’s vast mineral resources position it to become a renewable energy and critical mineral superpower.
  • 🏭 Building refineries domestically is crucial to move up the supply chain and capture more value.
  • 🚗 Tesla plans to significantly increase its buying intentions for Australian critical minerals, from AU$1.3 billion to AU$4.3 billion in 2023.
  • 🔋 Battery demand is expected to surge from 375 GWh in 2023 to potentially 57 TWh by 2035.
  • 🤝 Collaboration between government and industry is essential to develop Australia as a battery manufacturer, with ongoing production tax credits suggested as a beneficial approach.

While speaking at the annual Minerals Week summit in Canberra, Australia, Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm highlighted the importance of building refineries and factories. If Australia remains a country that is only focused on mining key battery materials, the executive warned that the country could lose a big opportunity. 

“This is a trillion-dollar opportunity for Australia. It is our opportunity to lose if we fail to act quickly. The rest of the world is waking up and looking to compete fiercely with us,” Denholm said. 

The Tesla Chair highlighted that Australia has a lot of potential. Mining could be considered the backbone of the Australian economy, and since Australia is one of the few countries that has all the necessary input minerals and materials, it has the potential to become a renewable energy and critical mineral superpower. 

“We are currently stuck at the bottom of the supply chain, leaving much of the value behind. Building refineries domestically is the crucial next step,” she said. 

Denholm’s words hold a lot of authority, considering her position at Tesla, the world’s most prominent electric vehicle maker. As noted in a report from the Australian Associated Press, Denholm jumpstarted the Minerals Council event two years ago by stating that Tesla was looking to spend AU$1.3 billion (US$831 million) annually on critical minerals from the country. 

This amount has since tripled, Denholm noted, with the EV maker’s buying intention now at over AU$4.3 billion (US$2.8 billion) for 2023. The executive noted that battery demand is rising sharply, from just over 375 GWh in 2023 to perhaps as high as 57 TWh by 2035. 

“Demand for Australian minerals will only continue to rise,” Denholm said.

The Australian federal government has maintained that it is focused and committed to making the country into a battery manufacturer instead of just a primary producer of raw materials. But while such announcements are positive, the Tesla Chair noted that governments and the industry have to align and push projects side by side. Thus, instead of one-off grants, Denholm noted that ongoing production tax credits for refining battery minerals onshore would be a better option. 

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