SIMEC ZEN unveils $1.3b renewable energy program

Sanjeev Gupta

SIMEC ZEN Energy, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s global GFG Alliance, has launched its landmark $1.36 billion 1GW dispatchable renewable energy program in South Australia.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer, and SIMEC ZEN Energy chairman Sanjeev Gupta unveiled the first of many renewable energy projects – the Cultana Solar Farm project.

Other projects planned for the region as part of the program include cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas; the world’s largest lithium‐ion battery; and trailblazing pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations.

Mr Gupta said there was a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia, with this the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition to more competitive energy.

“This event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new‐generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” he said.

“In particular, this signals the beginning of our journey with a number of stakeholders to not only transform GFG’s operations in Whyalla, but also further enhance the appeal of this great city.”

The Cultana solar project boasts 600GWh of energy generation per year – enough to power almost 100,000 average homes – drawn from 780,000 solar panels across an area 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval.

Mr Gupta said the project – together with SIMEC ZEN’s second solar project, in development to be built nearby – would be one of Australia’s largest solar farms, with even larger projects to follow in other states.

“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” he said.

“We have a strong conviction that traditional carbon‐intensive generation sources do not have a long‐term future as the predominant source of power in Australia and globally.

“We believe the world is undergoing a momentous transition to renewable power as the cost of renewables drops dramatically and quickly.

“It is, however, important we acknowledge and also support the critical role that coal and other traditional fossil fuel‐based power must play in this transition.”

Mr Gupta said he had no doubt generations to come would be powered mostly by renewable power, however, this transition would take time and must be phased in carefully.

“Looking forward, we will therefore continue to invest in renewables, helping drive their market penetration and continual increase in affordability and reliability,” he said.

“At the same time, we will make use of traditional power sources supporting an orderly transition.”

Mayor Breuer commended Mr Gupta for his vision for the region, with council keen to partner with GFG in the rejuvenation of Whyalla over the coming decades, including leasing a portion of the land for the Cultana project.

“We’ve already seen Sanjeev invest tens of millions improving efficiencies and reducing input costs for his Whyalla operations, this now marks the beginning of his long‐term investment program,” Mayor Breuer said.

“Most importantly for Whyalla, this project signals to the nation that Whyalla is open for development, helping attract industries to our great city and further diversify and strengthen our economy.”

SIMEC ZEN Energy has commenced preliminary consultation discussions with the local community regarding the project, and will continue to engage closely with key stakeholders as it progresses through the remaining approval processes.

Development approval is currently anticipated within the fourth quarter of this year, with construction commencing in the first quarter of 2019.