25 June 2020


Right now, WWF-Australia is calling on the Australian Government to support a renewables-led COVID-19 recovery. As a nation, we can reimagine Australia’s future and emerge from this crisis as a renewable energy powerhouse. And one of the main ways that we can do this is by becoming a global leader in battery manufacturing. 

This would unlock new opportunities for traditional industries and Aussie workers that have been doing it tough. We can make clean technology right here and sell it to the world. 

Battery nation

Australia has powerful potential to harness energy and build a renewable future, and we can achieve this through batteries. But we're not talking about your run of the mill AAA alkaline batteries. We mean battery storage.

A battery system can store excess electricity generated during the day from solar or wind power. Large-scale battery storage can help stabilise the grid, future-proofing our energy system or can be used in innovative new technology such as electric cars and buses.

Australia has all the pre-conditions to capture the full value of the battery supply chain. In fact experts say that Australia is one of only ten countries able to secure three-quarters of this global market. We could win this race if we act now!

Sounds like a pipe dream? Not at all. sonnen Australia, one of the world’s most innovative battery manufacturers, is living proof that it can be done.

From Holden to high-tech clean energy

Craig Johnston is the Operations Supervisor at sonnen Australia. But he didn’t start out in renewables. Craig worked in car manufacturing for Holden for 25 years at Elizabeth, South Australia. But when Holden manufacturing sadly closed down, sonnen stepped into the Elizabeth facility and jumped at the chance to offer employment to Craig and his workmates. 

“I was fortunate to work past the closure of the Holden plant and when it was time to leave, I left on a Friday, and started at sonnen on the following Monday. I haven’t left the site and still see my old teammates, so in a way there’s still contact with the Holden I know,” says Craig.

Craig’s team is responsible for manufacturing the sonnenBatterie, an intelligent home battery system that allows households to store solar energy generated from their rooftop solar systems. When combined with solar panels, it allows households to draw on their own clean energy from their batteries without having to rely on grid electricity. This means that thousands of households across Australia can be energy independent and are protected from energy price hikes. 

“I’m proud to be working in clean energy as Australia moves towards a future where more renewables power our electricity system,” says Craig. 

“With everything that’s happened in Australia as a result of COVID-19, it’s shown us that we need to be self-sufficient when it comes to manufacturing so we can get products without having to rely on a global supply chain.”

“We hope this inspires Australians to consider a career in cleantech manufacturing and to think about how we can work together to build a clean energy future.”

People power

Tara Cooper, Head of People and Culture at sonnen Australia, says there were very few challenges when it came to upskilling workers from car manufacturing to batteries. “The new sonnen production team had received outstanding training in advanced manufacturing techniques through Holden,” she explains. 

“The production and warehousing skills they had already developed were easily transferable to sonnen to produce and store batteries. We’ve also invested in developing additional electrotechnology skills through TAFE for employees who had more specialised roles in quality assurance and testing.” 

“We’ve found that there’s a great depth of talent available within Australia to fulfil these manufacturing roles. There are plenty of people with the skills and desire to do the work right here.”

Taking it to the world

WWF-Australia is calling on the government to support a $500 million stimulus package to help Australia become a ‘battery nation’ and create nearly 8,000 jobs. 

CEO of sonnen Asia Pacific, Nathan Dunn, says there’s massive potential for Australia to take this next step and export our Aussie-made products to the world. 

“There's a huge opportunity for Australia to take a step forward in transitioning from some of the old technologies and propositions that were built in the past from a labour force perspective,” says Nathan. 

“It gives us an opportunity to be a battery manufacturing hub for the region. As an example of that, the sonnenBatterie systems that we're manufacturing here in South Australia have already started to be shipped offshore to markets like New Zealand. And we've also got a proposition around building our market in Southeast Asia.”

“It's a perfect opportunity for the country to focus on new, clean technology rather than the old, polluting technology to generate energy. Not only will it benefit the consumer, it will also benefit Australia by growing jobs and stimulating the economy. There's an opportunity for jobs at every step in the supply chain.”

Find out more 

WWF-Australia is calling on the Australian Government, and the states to support a $2 billion renewable-led stimulus package. Together with business and industry leaders, we’re asking for five targeted stimulus measures:

  • Battery nation: Let’s unlock Australia’s potential to become a leader in global battery manufacture.
  • Local solar: Let’s deliver at least one new solar project in every community across the country.
  • Electric bus revolution: Let’s convert Australia’s buses to electric; we can make the world’s best buses right here, and sell them across the globe.
  • Modernising manufacturing: Let’s convert our manufacturing industries to renewable power sources, so they can be resilient and competitive in a global market. 
  • Accelerating renewable hydrogen: Let’s accelerate renewable hydrogen and become a global supplier of the ‘fuel of the future’.

To learn more visit wwf.org.au/renewable-recovery.