Power crisis prompts Australian firms to opt for unconventional energy

Businesses in Australia are opting to invest in unconventional power, in order to increase self-reliance at a time when the country is suffering from an ideological war on how to power its economy.

The government is currently urging a policy neutral stance on power generation in order to put an end to the swings in policy occurring due to changes in administrations over the last decade.

Liberty House, a metals firm is one of two bidders for the Arrium steelmaker business. If it wins, it plans to build water storage in abandoned mine pits. It would pump in seawater during low-demand periods when electricity is cheap, and then use that water to generate hydroelectric power during peak demand periods when electricity is expensive.
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull
The unit would incorporate a solar power farm. It would also be able to tap the intermittent power supply produced from other solar and wind-driven electricity generators.

Combined, the facility would have peak power generation capacity of up to 1 gigawatt, enough to power about 750,000 homes.

Meanwhile, Queensland-based zinc refiner Sun Metals, and telecoms provider Telstra are investing in solar farms to hedge their energy costs, following a doubling of electricity prices in parts of Australia over the past year. Many other companies are considering following suit, according to the Energy Users Association of Australia.à‚ 

A looming gas shortage and the closure of coal-fired power plants is increasing the threat to energy security and parliamentary in-fighting on whether to phase out fossil and switch to renewables has stunted investment in power producers.

The crisis came to a head last year when South Australia ࢀ” which is reliant on renewable energy for almost half its electricity ࢀ” suffered a blackout, after back-up gas-fired power generators failed to come online, following a storm.

Glencore, the resources group, may close a copper smelting operation in Queensland that supports 500-2,000 jobs, because of exorbitant energy costs. BHP Billiton, which lost US$100m due to the power cuts in South Australia, has warned energy insecurity is threatening investment.à‚ 

The FT reports that Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist provided independent scientific counsel to the government, published a report that recommends Australia set a clean emissions target to break the policy deadlock.

The policy would provide subsidies to energy producers with low greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike the existing renewables’ target, a CET is technology-neutral and could provide subsidies to gas and even coal-fired power plants, as long as their emissions footprint is below a threshold. To qualify for subsidies, coal plants would probably have to deploy carbon capture and store technology.à‚ 

“The important objective that we have is to take the ideology and politics out of this issue,”à‚ said Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, on Friday.à‚ 

No posts to display