EU wants Australia to step up as clean energy disruptor

Australia could help disrupt China's dominance over clean technology supplies, the European Union’s energy commissioner says.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson warned western economies had become too reliant on a single supplier for several sectors, including critical minerals, which should send alarm bells ringing.

The bloc had learnt hard lessons from relying on a single country for crucial energy supplies after Russia, which supplied gas to the EU, invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

Critical minerals are needed for the clean energy transition and are used for electric vehicles and wind turbines.

China was an "indispensable partner" on climate as one of the world’s major investors in renewables, but was distorting the global level playing field and applying unfair business and trade practices, she said.

"We are therefore open to strategic partnerships aimed at diversifying our clean technology supplies," Ms Simson said.

The EU wanted to create "healthy interdependencies" on clean energy with other nations.

The energy commissioner said Europe was increasingly looking to nuclear power as the continent expected the share of electricity in its energy consumption to double to 50 per cent by 2040.

The EU aimed to develop a whole supply chain for small modular nuclear reactors by 2030.

Ms Simson said it was not her place to weigh in on Australia's nuclear debate, but pointed to the nation's role as a major and stable supplier of uranium for global civilian nuclear energy.

Asked about calls for Australia to stop exporting gas, Ms Simson said it was important to keep the global energy market "predictable and as stable as possible".

The EU's energy commissioner said nations needed to work together to avoid a bidding contest among buyers if stability was threatened.

Ms Simson said the economic bloc wanted to get back to the negotiating table for a free trade deal with Australia, describing the EU's "surprise and disappointment" that talks fell over late last year.

Australia's main sticking point is greater market access for its agricultural products.

With the European Parliament heading to elections in June, negotiations have been put on ice.

Ms Simson said the bloc had put forward its proposal to Australia, and was waiting on a response.

"I also expressed this to my colleagues here in Australia, is important to keep up regular information sharing because you can avoid lots of misunderstandings if you have established this good communication line," she said.

The energy commissioner said a trade deal would act as a strong enabler for a partnership with Australia on critical minerals.

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