Australia’s biggest energy user, the Tomago Aluminium smelter in the Hunter Valley, has announced plans to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, foreshadowing an early closure for AGL’s Bayswater coal burning power station, which counts Tomago as its biggest customer.
“Our goal would be, by 2029, that the largest load in Australia is, for all intents and purposes, 100 per cent renewable,” Tomago Aluminium CEO Matt Howell said.
This news means that it would be almost impossible for Bayswater to remain operating beyond 2029, Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Glenn Walker said.
“This announcement is a game changer for Australian energy and underscores the need for AGL, Australia’s biggest coal power operator, to rapidly switch to renewable energy production to keep up with the demands of the market,” Walker said.
“AGL has planned to push the life of its Bayswater coal-burning power station well into the 2030s, but with its biggest customer Tomago Aluminium showing energy leadership and switching to renewable energy by 2029, it’s almost impossible to see how AGL can avoid bringing forward Bayswater’s closure.
“We’ll be watching claims of a gas back up for Tomago closely. Gas is a dangerous, expensive fossil fuel that’s a primary driver of climate change and has no place in Australia’s energy transition,” he said.
“AGL’s leadership must act decisively and hasten its transition away from coal to protect energy sector jobs, and to ensure the future viability of the company in a world that is shifting at lightning speed to cleaner, cheaper renewables.”
Tomago Aluminium, majority owned by resources giant Rio Tinto, uses over half of the coal-fired energy produced by Bayswater.
While the announcement is welcome news, Rio Tinto must go further, according to REenergise director Lindsay Soutar.
“Greenpeace welcomes the move by Tomago to ditch dirty coal for cleaner, cheaper renewable energy,” Soutar said.
“This week’s IPCC climate report shows the urgent need for Australian companies to show leadership in making the emissions reduction cuts needed to safeguard our climate and prosperity.
“Tomago’s announcement sets an example to high-emitting industries – making the switch to clean energy isn’t just possible, it’s necessary,” she said.
“Tomago owner Rio Tinto, Australia’s biggest energy user, must now go further and commit to 100 per cent renewable energy for all of its operations by 2030.”