Former Rio Tinto executive Stephen McIntosh has been appointed to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency board, marking just the latest in a flurry of appointments of former resources executives to key climate change and clean energy agencies by the Morrison government.
Current ARENA CEO Darren Miller has also been re-appointed for another three-year term as head of the agency tasked with providing funding support for the research and development of new clean energy technologies.
Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor announced the appointments on Thursday, saying that the addition of McIntosh would bring to the ARENA board experience in the production of the materials used in clean energy technologies like electric vehicles and battery storage.
“The Morrison Government has appointed Mr Stephen McIntosh to the ARENA Board for a two-year term,” Taylor said in a statement.
“Mr McIntosh is a former Rio Tinto Group Executive with experience in green metals, wind, solar and batteries. He has also worked across hydrogen and carbon capture technologies during his time with the company.”
McIntosh will replace the former COO of Sundrop Farms and the current Chief Investment Officer of Kilara Capital, Dougal McOmish, on the ARENA Board.
Chief Executive of Horizon Power, Stephanie Unwin, was also re-appointed to the board for another two-year term.
McIntosh’s appointment is the latest in more than a dozen resources executives appointed to key advisory positions within the Morrison government, particularly within agencies focused on climate change and clean energy policy.
On Wednesday, Taylor announced that he had appointed former oil and gas executive Katherine Vidgen to the board of the Clean Energy Regulator.
As RenewEconomy reported at the time, those who have previously held senior positions within the resources and fossil fuel sectors have disproportionately dominated appointments made by the Morrison government to agencies responsible for climate change and clean energy policy.
On the ARENA Board, McIntosh will join former political adviser to Taylor, John Hirjee, another former Rio Tinto executive, Anna Matysek, and entrepreneur and start-up consultant Justin Butcher. The ARENA board is chaired by environmentally-focused investor and personal friend to Taylor, Justin Punch.
Rio Tinto was once one of Australia’s largest coal producers, but has undertaken a process of divesting itself from its coal mines – a process it completed in 2018.
The company has focused its operations on the production of minerals and metals in an attempt to reposition itself as a ‘greener’ resources company, as companies opting to retain their fossil fuel operations facing mounting pressure from investors and environmental groups alike to reduce their exposure to the oil, gas and coal industries.
These efforts to position Rio Tinto as a more ‘ethical’ resources company came unstuck last year when it deliberately destroyed 46,000-year-old heritage sites in the Juukan Gorge, against the wishes of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Traditional Owners of the region.
McIntosh left Rio Tinto shortly after the Juukan Gorge incident and said he had conceded that the company had adopted an “overly transactional” approach to working with First Nations people and the Traditional Owners of the lands exploited by the company for resources.
Since leaving Rio Tinto, McIntosh joined the board of metals producer Chalice Mining.