Leading iron ore company Fortescue Metals Group – controlled by billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest – has announced a zero “operational” emissions target by 2040, and pledged to support the Paris “well below” 2°C climate target – suggesting that the whole Australian economy should do the same.
Fortescue, which has already committed to using solar and battery storage to supply up to nearly one third of the power needs of its Pilbara iron ore mining operations, also flagged a portfolio of new investments in hydrogen, suggesting more wind and solar projects in the pipeline.
“Fortescue has a proud history of setting stretch targets and our 2030 emissions reduction commitment, together with our goal to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2040, positions Fortescue as a leader in addressing the global climate change challenge,” CEO Elisabeth Gaines said in a statement.
“Fortescue supports the Paris Agreement long-term goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and our emissions reduction targets align with this international objective. Our success will be founded on practical initiatives that will allow us to deliver on our targets in an economically sustainable manner.”
Fortescue’s targets put it at odds with Australia’s federal government, which signed up to the Paris climate treaty in 2015, but has since tried to dodge the commitment of reaching zero emissions by 2050 which the “well below” 2°C target requires of most nations.
Australia has only committed to a cut of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, a weak target further diluted by its stated intention to use surplus Kyoto credits (a legacy of its even weaker Kyoto targets – Australia was allowed to actually increase emissions in the first Kyoto period), and will also depend on land use changes (2005 was deliberately chosen as a base because it was a year of high land use emissions).
Fortescue says it supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which mandates that individual nations take responsibility for emissions within their own borders.
“The company will continue to actively engage with its customers and suppliers to encourage and facilitate the reduction of emissions in its value chain,” it says. That will no doubt introduce a major new dynamic into the political and business debate around climate and the clean energy transition.
Forrest has already emerged as a potential leader in the decarbonisation of Australia’s economy by joining software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes in backing the first stage of the ambitious Sun Cable plan to build the world’s biggest solar farm (10GW), the biggest battery (30GWh) and the longest sub sea cable (3,700kms) to deliver clean energy to Singapore and other south-east Asia customers.
That commitment is believed to be in the “tens of millions” of dollar, with a final decision expected in 2023. Sun Cable has suggested that if the numbers line up for that project, it could be the first of many gigawatt scale renewable energy projects in Australia and overseas. Forrest’s private company also led the newly completed buyout of listed renewable energy developer Windlab.
In its own operations, Fortescue’s embrace of solar and battery technology has been well documented, at least by RenewEconomy.
A 60MW solar farm at Chichester is now being installed near the Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek mines, as flagged on this web-site in 2018 and confirmed by Fortescue in October, 2019, that will connect with the Mt Newman gas generator and 30MW/8MWh battery that already supplies the iron ore mine owned by Gina Rinehart.
Fortescue is also building a further 150MW solar plant, and a big battery, to go with a new 150MW gas fired power station to power two new iron ore projects that will be linked by the Pilbara Energy Connect program.
“Since October 2019, Fortescue and our partners have announced investments in excess of US$800 million in significant energy infrastructure projects which will increase our use of renewable energy and will be a key contributor to our pathway to achieve our emissions reduction targets,” Gaines said in the statement.
“The Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project, announced with Alinta Energy in October 2019, is well advanced for the installation of 60MW of solar generation. More recently, Fortescue announced the US$700 million investment in the Pilbara Energy Connect program which, together with the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project, will deliver 25-30 per cent of our stationary energy requirements from solar power.”
Gaines said Fortescue was embracing the target of “carbon neutrality” with a “sense of urgency” and was also looking at decarbonising its mobile fleet through the “next phase of hydrogen and battery electric energy solutions.”
Fortescue recently appointed Rob Grant , a former head of renewable energy company Pacific Hydro, and head of the Clean Energy Investment Group, as its head of energy.
Fortescue says the new transmission line will support additional large scale renewable energy in the future.
“A portfolio of additional projects associated with hydrogen production, storage and use is under development to ensure that Fortescue is well positioned to meet the demand for hydrogen as both an export opportunity and to contribute to the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s operations.”