Q&A with Prof Ray Wills

5 March 2020

Prof Ray Wills, Managing Director of Future Smart Strategies and keynote speaker at our 2020 Lithium and Battery Metals conference, gives us his insights into the upcoming conference and the latest in the lithium and associated metals industry.

1. What message would you like to highlight to those attending the Lithium and Battery Metals Conference? What do you hope will be the main take away from your presentation at the conference?
The economy of 21 Century will be dominated by mobility solutions at all levels – mobility through devices, and physical mobility – personal transport and mobility through vehicles of different scale – and batteries will be the power solution across all of those levels, Batteries are going to be so fundamental for the global economy in the 21st Century that Australia can’t help but profit from our resources.

2. In a recent Ted Talk you mention we are almost at the point where energy is free, do you think this concept could eventuate in this decade?
The rate of this change in the renewables and clean-tech space has, almost universally, been consistently understated. The key is that energy at the point of generation will be almost free – the delivery of electricity will then determine cost, and for the first time we may see competitors for different delivery systems for electricity. As it will be electricity infrastructure that brings the primary cost for electricity supply, alternatives that don’t involve poles and wires will win – if the solution is cheaper.

3. New technology continues to power through the resources sector and the rate of global change is extraordinary. As we move towards a renewable future, what advice do you have to our young professionals looking to attend the conference?
Jobs and growth will be distributed along with renewable energy. Renewables are both modular, and scalable – and by the end of the decade, will involve no diesel whatsoever, essentially eliminating transport of energy, not just in pole and wires, but also as liquids on trucks.

4. Renewables can roll out quickly with a much faster return around than traditional energy options. What kind of push do you think is needed to keep moving forward with renewables so solar panels could be just as popular in households as TV sets?
Solar panels are already more popular than TV sets – that is, the world makes more solar panels as counted as units, than TV sets. And to make solar twice as popular as TVs is now just a matter of time – momentum is ensured as electricity from solar is now the cheapest way to generate electricity, all that’s needs is for battery storage to be equally as cheap, and that, too, is simply a matter of when, not if.

5. With the impressive journey of renewables and the current state of the climate, what do you think should be Australia’s focus for 2020? How can we make people collectively agree to make it happen?
Corporations are taking leadership, and making governments that don’t lead, redundant. Investing in renewables has now easy – not only is it cheaper, but leading companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and any other company with consumer exposure, are now insisting on ethical, green supply chains.

6. Lithium has been experiencing an unfortunate downturn during the past few years but during December Fitch Solutions predicted improvement throughout 2020. As someone close to the industry, what do you think we will see in the way of improvement for lithium prices and supply/demand ratios in 2020 and beyond?
Improvement in lithium value and lithium markets is simply a matter of when, not if. My expectation is that improvement will become obvious by mid year – with a necessary caveat that corona virus is only just playing out. The growth of batteries – and so lithium – is not just about electric cars, nor is it simply cumulative with stationary storage – as they get cheaper, batteries will drive many more things than we can yet imagine.

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