Australian aluminium smelter aims to switch to renewables

Article by Amanda Doyle

TOMAGO Aluminium, Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, is aiming to operate on 100% renewable electricity by 2029.

Tomago is the biggest electricity user in the country. Tomago currently sources its electricity from AGL’s Bayswater coal-fired power station, but this contract expires at the end of 2028 at which point Tomago aims to move to renewable electricity suppliers.

Matt Howel, CEO of Tomago, told the Australian Financial Review: “Our goal would be, by 2029, that the largest load in Australia is, for all intents and purposes, 100% renewable. There’s further improvements on the cost of the equation to go before firmed renewables is a viable option for us, but we are perpetually optimistic; I think we will get there.”

AGL plans to operate the Bayswater station until 2036, however as Tomago is its largest customer, there are now doubts as to whether the station will operate for this long.

Dan Gocher, Director of Climate & Environment at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), said: “Tomago’s announcement is the final nail in the coffin for the Bayswater coal-fired power station. Without its largest customer, AGL is unlikely to make a profit from Bayswater beyond 2029.

“AGL should bring forward the Bayswater closure date immediately […] Setting a clear closure date will allow workers and the community time to adjust and transition. AGL must ensure workers are repositioned or retrained throughout the closure.”

Glenn Walker, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner, 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.”

“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.”

According to the Australian Financial Review, Tomago is in talks with several potential renewable electricity suppliers, although gas power will still be needed as a back-up solution. Australian Financial Review separately reported that it is also in talks with AGL as the company is looking to transition to lower-carbon energy.

Markus Brokhof, CEO of AGL, told Australian Financial Review: “We are committed to the Hunter region and continue to progress our plans to transform our thermal generation sites into low-carbon integrated industrial energy hubs that will support the decarbonisation of Australian industry.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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