Clean energy investor head to lead Fortescue Metals energy division | RenewEconomy

Clean energy investor head to lead Fortescue Metals energy division

Head of renewables investment group to take new role heading energy division at iron ore miner Fortescue Metals, which is playing increasing role in clean energy transition.

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The Silverton wind farm

The head of the Clean Energy Investment Group, which is playing an increasingly prominent role in trying to unlock some of the regulatory hurdles facing the large-scale wind and solar industry in Australia, is leaving the organisation to head up the newly formed energy division of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals.

Rob Grant, also a former head of Pacific Hydro and ex-chair of the Clean Energy Council, has led the 25-member CEIG in its efforts to seek changes to some of the biggest obstacles to clean energy investment in Australia, the so-called marginal loss factors and the equally controversial COGATI (coordination of generation and transmission investment) reform.

The CEIG, which represents investment of more than $12 billion, and another $20 billion in the pipeline, failed to shift the Australian Energy Market Commission on MLFs, but its efforts were rewarded when AEMC decided earlier this week to back-track on its COGATI proposals.

Grant will take up his new role at Fortescue in April, with the iron ore miner taking an increasingly prominent role in the transition to clean energy.

Fortescue has committed to building a new 150MW solar farm and a big battery to help supply power to its iron ore mines in the Pilbara, and cut energy costs and emissions along the way. Alinta is also building a separate 60MW solar farm to help power Fortescue’s Chichester mine.

Fortescue this week also announced it was part of a consortium – also including BHP and Anglo American – that will look to develop “green hydrogen” – essentially transport and transportable fuels sourced from huge solar and wind farms.

The Pilbara, with its excellent wind and solar resources, is likely to be prime location for such projects, and Vestas, CWP and Macquarie are already pursuing a major 15GW wind and solar project – the Asia Renewable Energy Hub – to do just that.

Fortescue chairman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has also, through his private company, joined software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes in funding a feasibility study for the massive Sun Cable project, which proposes the world’s biggest solar farm (10GW) and a massive battery to supply power to Singapore, and possibly link into Australia’s main grid.

Forrest has also emerged as a key member of a consortium that is taking over listed renewable energy developer Windlab.

Grant’s role at CEIG will be taken – at least on an interim basis – by Katie Barnett, the former head of PARF, a key member of CEIG that has experienced its own issues with its solar farm at Broken Hill and the nearby Silverton wind farm.

The Broken Hill solar farm, which operated for nearly five years without issues, now finds its output cut in half (along with four Victoria solar farms) due to newly discovered “system strength” issues in the West Murray region of the grid. The output of Silverton is also heavily curtailed, particularly during the day.

“Katie has been able to commit to a two month period with the CEIG to act in the role and also facilitate strategic discussions and actions by the group about longer term leadership stability,” Grant said in a letter to CEIG members in which he described the group as “one of the most important voices in Australia’s great energy transition”.

Among the main issues that Barnett and the CEIG will pursue is a “plan B” for MLFs – likely seeking a new rule change, but this time with the support of large energy users and other key stakeholders. The ongoing issues around Cogati, the redesign of the market rules and connection and curtailment issues will also remain top of the agenda.

 

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