UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has dramatically increased the scope of his renewable energy plans for Australia, saying his company could build 10 gigawatts of large-scale solar across the country, as well as an electric vehicle manufacturing facility.
Gupta’s GFG Alliance and its energy offshoot SIMEC ZEN has previously spoken of 1GW of solar plus storage just in South Australia to power the newly purchased Whyalla steel works, and more for the OneSteel assets that he now also owns in NSW and Victoria.
But in a speech to the Australian Energy Storage conference and exhibition in Adelaide on Wednesday, Gupta said the plunging cost of solar and the need for cheap electricity meant that his company could invest in 10GW of solar across the country.
“We are going to build 1,000MW in South Australia, but across the country – depending on the growth in industries – it could be as much as 10GW,” Gupta said.
The output would be used for Gupta’s steel and recycling business, which he hopes to expand dramatically, but also for other industrial users, and he sees huge potential for solar to underpin those industries.
“Australia has the best solar conditions in the world, and solar is already the cheapest form of generation in many parts of the world,” he said.
Gupta also confirmed plans to begin manufacture in Australia of a radical new lightweight electric car, developed by former F1 car maker Gordon Murray.
He said this could happen within two or three years, but it was not yet clear if that would occur in South Australia, or another state such as Victoria, as recently suggested.
Gupta noted EVs had great potential not just to decarbonise the transport industry, but also to use their batteries for household storage.
“The fact that electric cars are coming, everyone knows,” Gupta said.
“It not just about fact we are going electric, it is also how that electricity is generated and how it is integrated. It is about changing the mindset.
“Energy storage will be the ultimate liberator.
“Batteries will get cheaper and cheaper. Solar panels were five six times more expensive than they are today. And as they drop they will provide a revolution in how we consume electricity globally.
“Given that Australia has best solar radiation in world … this will make Australia a very great producer of power,” he said, and that presented opportunities to become a major manufacturer again, and seize opportunities in lithium to create a new manufacturing industry.
“We are investigating making batteries in Australia,” he said, but noted it was a long road. He also noted the huge opportunity in battery recycling.