The UK steel billionaire has flagged the potential investment of another 3,000MW of renewable energy projects in South Australia to support his plans to turn his Whyalla Steelworks into an internationally competitive “green steel” hub.
Gupta’s comments come after the announcement that he and Professor Ross Garnaut had chosen to part ways, with Gupta’s Simec Energy focusing on his own company’s needs, and Garnaut’s Sunshot Energy and its retail offshoot Zen Energy focusing on the broader market for renewable development and contracts.
The split is said by both parties to be amicable, and simply reflecting their different business focus.
“Ross’ deep understanding of the evolving renewable energy space was pivotal in the development of our $1 billion renewable energy program,” Gupta said in a statement.
“South Australia is uniquely positioned to lead Australia through the inevitable transition to renewables so I am confident both Simec Energy Australia and Zen Energy have a very bright future. The separation will allow both businesses to independently execute their strategies, while exploring more effective capital structures and attract investors.”
Simec and its parent company GFG Alliance will retain ownership of the 280MW Cultana solar plant near Whyalla, the planned Playford big battery at Port Augusta, and the Middleback Ranges pumped hydro project that is awaiting word – nearly two years after its application – on whether it will get funding from the federal government’s stalled Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme.
Construction of Cultana is finally expected to begin later this year, while development approval for the Playford battery has been received and GFG is negotiating with ARENA for funding.
Gupta says remains focused on his previously announced plans to turn the Whyalla steelworks, the ageing facility he bought out of bankruptcy several years ago, into a new source of “green steel.”
While much focus is put on Australia’s ability to export green hydrogen, many suspect that the best opportunities might be using the hydrogen within the country to support local manufacturing, or simply to use the vast wind and solar resources to underpin the creation of “green metals”, such as green steel, by providing power and industrial processes with zero or low emissions.
Gupta told The Australian newspaper in the interview that he will now target developing up to 3000 megawatts of renewables in addition to the Cultana solar farm in South Australia, with the entire capacity to be used for a new green hydrogen steel plant at Whyalla.
“I wanted to focus on generation because my objective is industrialisation rather than developing a retail business,” Gupta told The Australian.
“I really want to focus on doing a much bigger 2000-3000MW plant after Cultana to feed hydrogen. All of our energy projects will be part of an industrial transformation to carbon neutrality. We will finish Cultana first and then step on the gas to do the expansion.”
Gupta is still contemplating a float of his green steel business, but that appears to be some way down the track, and once the first projects are completed and the bigger pipeline defined.
Gupta said the Whyalla Steelworks were nearly breakeven. “So we’ve done a lot of work and made a lot of changes and there’s some more to come,” he told The Australian. We are focused on the existing plant being sustainable until new green steel plants get built over the next few years.”