Andrew Forrest’s iron ore mining giant Fortescue Metals has unveiled stunning plans to build more than 235 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity, mostly wind and solar, to become a supplier of green energy and hydrogen that would rival the country’s biggest oil suppliers in terms of energy produced.
The extraordinary vision – and the creation of Fortescue Future Industries – was unveiled by Forrest at the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, and it represents the single most aggressive push into renewables ever unveiled.
“It is a time that has come. The world is never short and never will be short of renewable energy,” Forrest told shareholders. “After scientific and personal analysis of the renewable energy resources of our little planet I can assure you that there is more than enough renewable energy to sustainably and economically supply every person on this planet from this time forth.
“It is our job to respectfully use these readily available renewable resources and supply the world’s fuel and power at sufficient scale to satisfy the need for abundant, cheap, zero pollutant energy.”
The scale of the program is breathtaking. To put it into context, 235GW of wind and solar is equivalent to nearly five times the current capacity of Australia’s main grit, more than 20 times the size of the proposed Sun Cable solar project Forrest is developing in conjunction with software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, and more than the energy output of oil giants such as Chevron and Total.
Forrest did not outline specifics about where and when the scale of projects would be built, but said nearly 50 countries had and would be studied for their potential and government interest.
And he made it clear it would focus on products such as green hydrogen and ammonia, which would not just satisfy domestic energy and manufacturing needs, but also international markets in fuels, fertilisers and in green metals.
A “flywheel” plan illustrated in the presentation to shareholders indicates a focus initially on hydrogen and building the first 100GW of wind and solar, and then using the cash flows and lower costs from that investment to further expand the amount of renewables and green hydrogen.
Forrest said renewables and renewable hydrogen could be applied to fuel cells, ammonia, steel making, and industry heating. “Fortescue is building a major Renewable Energy/Green Industry business with global scale,” Forrest said, referring to the coming “stampede” into renewable energy and green industries.
Fortescue Future Industries has a team of about 40 executives working on the plan, and Forrest revealed that the team had visited 23 countries, and would visit 24 more, to assess their government interest, green energy resources, and their potential to push into green industries.
Fortescue has been focusing first on the transition of its own energy consumption, including for its big iron ore projects in the Pilbara. The first 60MW solar farm at Chichester is nearly complete, and will be followed by another 150MW solar farm and a big battery at its other iron ore projects.
It is also moving into green hydrogen in its iron ore operations, and connect the solar production to Australia’s largest electroylser in mid-2021 to generate green hydrogen for its hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet trial at Christmas Creek operations, and then moving to trucks, trains and ships. The plan to reach zero net emissions for its own operations by 2040, or before.
“This revolution has to begin at home, it has to begin at Fortescue,” Forrest said. The company would then move to a multi-gigawatt renewable hydrogen project to replace one billion litres of imported fuel.
He said the company had been working for the past five years to collect licences and patents to put the technology plan together, and had now engaged more than 25 governments around the world.
“This will place us up there with the major energy companies in the world if we fully develop them,” he said. “As each project tolls in we will consider them on their merits … and we will go ahead and finance those projects.
“Those first targets of 235GW of green energy … will be financed conservatively and away from our balance sheet. I see, once we can create sufficient renewable fuels, and we can guarantee reliability of supply at scale, there will be a veritable stampede into green energy and green industry.”
Indeed, Forrest said he intended to tap into the trillion dollars looking for homes in green energy investments as Europe unveils its green new deal and the US also pivot towards green industries.
“They’re making multi trillion dollar investments … what we’re going to do is take our leadership, tech innovation,” to lead that transition.