Greens call for aluminium smelter to be upgraded to serve as "reverse battery" | RenewEconomy

Greens call for aluminium smelter to be upgraded to serve as “reverse battery”

Victorian Greens call for upgrades to Portland smelter to run as a “reverse battery” as part of a ‘green new deal’ for the Covid-19 hit state.


The Victorian Greens have presented a green Covid-19 recovery package, which includes funding an upgrade to the Portland Aluminium smelter to allow it to act as a “reverse battery” while being powered by wind and solar.

The Victorian Greens have argued that the Victorian government should look to reprioritise an estimated $200 million in subsidies that are provided to the Portland aluminium smelter and apply the funding to allow the smelter to be used as a “reverse battery”.

The upgrade would allow the Portland smelter to use energy for aluminium production when there is a glut in supply of wind and solar energy, while also allowing it to strategically reduce its energy use when the energy supply-demand balance is tight and when prices are high.

Such an upgrade would allow the smelter to operate predominately on supplies of zero emissions power, helping the plant to significantly reduce its emissions at a time when owner Alcoa is looking to reduce its global carbon footprint. Similar ideas have been promoted by others. See: Australia’s big smelters could also be giant batteries, and go green at same time

“Taxpayers already give Alcoa $50 million a year in a secret deal arranged by the Andrews Labor Government. Instead of giving them taxpayer money to use polluting coal power, why not give them a grant to use renewable energy and become a ‘reverse battery’?”, acting leader of the Victorian Greens Ellen Sandell said.

“If we do nothing, Alcoa is likely to close and 1,500 people will lose their jobs. Instead, we could upgrade the smelter so it runs on renewable energy and is also able to cut its energy use during days of peak demand, which brings down bills for every Victorian. This is an innovative idea that saves jobs and saves the climate – what’s not to like?”

The Victorian Greens have argued that the upgrade to the Portland smelter could be crucial to ensuring it remains in operation, protecting the jobs of the 1,500 workers employed at the plant.

The Victorian Greens have released its plan for a ‘Green New Deal’, which builds off a similar plan that has been launched by the Australian Greens at a federal level.

Through investments in expanding the state’s renewable energy capacity and investments in residential energy efficiency measures, the Victorian Greens estimate that as many as 30,000 new jobs could be created, along with protecting jobs in the aluminium manufacturing sector.

The Victorian plan includes fast-tracking legislative amendments allow the state to host Australia’s first off-shore wind farm, which would likely involve the 2,000MW Star of the South project being proposed off the Gippsland coast.

The Greens have also proposed bring back the state’s transmission network infrastructure back under public ownership, to facilitate investment in the new infrastructure required to support the gradual replacement of the state’s ageing brown coal generator fleet with wind and solar.

“The Andrews Labor Government has already set aside $24 billion to revitalise our economy coming out of COVID-19, and it’s critical that this is used to protect both people and the planet,” Sandell added.

“Our recovery plan is bold and would see Victoria become a clean energy super-power in the midst of a climate crisis.”

“Instead of continuing to provide a lifeline to big coal companies or billionaires, let’s invest in creating jobs, building big renewable energy projects and creating a better future that’s safe from the worst impacts of climate change.”

The Victorian Greens’ plan also proposes the rollout of roof top solar and battery storage systems to 24,000 public housing properties across the state, as well as providing grant support for Victorian households to improve the energy efficiency of their properties.

The Greens argue that investments in improving housing energy efficiency would be a better use of taxpayer money than the $25,000 grants the Morrison government is providing to subsidise renovations.

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