Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rio Tinto Inked Australia’s Largest Wind Energy Agreement to Support the Electricity Needs of its Operations – Insights Success

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The global mining behemoth, Rio Tinto has announced the signing of Australia’s largest renewable energy power purchase agreement (PPA) to support its extensive smelting and refining operations in Gladstone, Queensland. This groundbreaking deal, revealed on Wednesday, entails acquiring 80 percent of the output from the 1.4-gigawatt (GW) Bungapan wind energy project developed by Windlab, a company predominantly owned by iron ore tycoon Andrew Forrest. Notably, this PPA spans a remarkable 25-year period, likely setting a record for wind farms in Australia. This development follows closely on the heels of last month’s announcement of another PPA, this time for the largest solar farm on Australia’s main grid, the 1.1 GW Upper Calliope solar farm, to be constructed by European Energy.

Rio Tinto has consistently expressed its aspirations to transition its Australian refineries and smelters from coal-fired generators to wind and solar energy sources. This shift aims to uphold competitiveness in the global market, both in terms of pricing and emissions reduction. Jakob Stausholm, Rio Tinto’s chief executive, affirmed this commitment, acknowledging the challenges ahead while emphasizing the company’s dedication to securing competitive, reliable power for its Gladstone plants. Collaboration with various stakeholders, including government entities at both the Queensland and Australian levels, remains integral to achieving this objective.

Stausholm further highlighted the importance of competitive capacity, firming capabilities, and robust transmission infrastructure in fostering a modern energy system conducive to large-scale renewables development in Queensland. Such advancements are pivotal not only for Rio Tinto’s operations but also for ensuring the sustainability of Australian industry as a whole.

Rio Tinto forecasts that upon completion, the combined renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Windlab and European Energy, totaling 2.2 gigawatts (GW), could potentially reduce carbon emissions by approximately 5 million tonnes annually. Additionally, these initiatives have the capacity to generate renewable energy equivalent to 10 percent of Queensland’s current power demand, representing a significant step towards decarbonization and sustainable energy usage in the region.

The wind and solar farms will provide energy to several key assets, including the Boyne aluminium smelter, the Yarwun alumina refinery, and the Queensland Alumina refinery. Rio Tinto views the Bungaban power purchase agreement (PPA) as a significant contribution to increasing renewable energy supply in one of Australia’s critical industrial centers. This initiative represents another stride towards Rio Tinto’s climate objective of reducing its global Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions by 50% within this decade.

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