July 23, 2018 Read More →

Industrialist aims to show Australians the economic benefits of solar

The Guardian:

The British billionaire who rescued the Whyalla steelworks from administration and is spending more than $2bn on clean energy and green steel developments in regional South Australia says most Australians are yet to grasp that solar power is now a cheaper option than new coal-fired electricity.

Sanjeev Gupta, an industrialist whose family-owned GFG Alliance group of companies has been credited with resurrecting Britain’s steel industry, says he considered investing in coal generation in the state’s Upper Spencer Gulf after buying Arrium’s steel mill last year but found solar backed by “firming” storage technologies made better economic sense.

“It’s still everybody’s perception that it is cheaper to make power from coal than it is from renewables, and it is no longer the case,” he told Guardian Australia. “It was the case not long ago, but it’s no longer the case, and we will prove it.”

Gupta’s position is consistent with the Australian energy market operator, which last week released a forecast that found renewable electricity backed by storage and gas would be the lowest cost replacement for the existing coal fleet. The market operator also found it was important to avoid early departures from the electricity grid to ensure an orderly transition.

He said the $700m electricity plan he announced last year was likely to end up expanding to about $1.5bn as new projects were included. Confirmed elements include: two farms of solar photovoltaic panels totaling more than 400 MW to both run the steel plant and feed into the national grid; a co-generation plant of about 80 MW that would capture the waste gases from steel production and convert them into electricity; up to three pumped hydro plants totaling up to 400 MW in disused mining pits in the Middlebank Ranges; a lithium-ion battery larger than that built by Tesla and French company Neoen following a state government tender last year.

“If it was cheaper to make new coal plants, I would argue you should invest in that technology… these HELE (high efficiency, low emissions coal) plants are incredibly efficient these days and their emissions are really quite impressive,” he said. “But it should just turn on what’s more competitive. If you can make power from the sort of things that we’re doing and it can compete against a new coal plant, then why would you not do that, right? It’s obvious.”

More: Sanjeev Gupta: Coal power is no longer cheaper – and we’ll prove it

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