Australia’s largest aluminium smelter to switch to renewables by 2029

Photo of production inside Tomago Aluminium smelter

Tomago Aluminium, Australia’s largest aluminium smelter and the country’s biggest power consumer, says it plans to switch to a largely renewable energy supply by 2029 in a move that would greatly reduce carbon emissions in New South Wales, The Guardian reports.

Tomago is reportedly in talks with renewable energy suppliers ahead of the expiry of its current energy contract with AGL in 2028.

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Its chief executive, Matt Howell, told the Australian Financial Review the goal for the smelter near Newcastle was to be “for all intents and purposes 100 per cent renewable” by 2029.

“There’s further improvement 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’ll get there,” he said.

Smelters use approximately 10 per cent of the energy of the east coast grid. Dan Gocher, the director of climate and environment at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said the announcement should signal the end for AGL’s Bayswater power station, which is scheduled to close in 2035.

“Without its largest customer, AGL is unlikely to make a profit from Bayswater beyond 2029,” Gocher said.

“The owners of Tomago … should be applauded for this outcome. Such decisions de-risk Australian industry in the face of carbon border adjustment mechanisms.”

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AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof said the company was committed to the Hunter region and was progressing plans to “transform our thermal generation sites into low-carbon integrated industrial energy hubs”.

“This includes progress on a grid-scale battery, wind, solar and thermal storage system and a waste to energy facility, while also exploring the feasibility of pumped hydro at Bell’s Mountain,” he said.

Brokhof said there were no changes planned for the closure dates of AGL’s coal-fired power stations.