Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta is laying down a challenge to the coal and gas industry by putting forward a $1 billion plus solar and storage proposal in the federal Coalition’s planned tender for new 24/7 power generation.
The proposal from Gupta’s Australian energy offshoot, Simec Zen Energy, is in line with its previously announced plans to power the Whyalla steelworks he now owns – along with other large energy users – with cheap reliable power via a mix of large scale solar, battery storage and pumped hydro.
News of Gupta’s proposal comes as the government confirms that 66 different projects were put forward in response to the government’s request for proposals, with gas plants forming the largest number, and plans for new coal plants, expansions and extensions accounting for another 10 coal investments.
The biggest among these is a $6 billion proposal for two new coal plants in Victoria, put forward by Trevor St Baker, the co-owner of the ageing Vales Point coal generator in NSW. Any such move would likely need an indemnity from the federal government against a future carbon price, potentially costing around $7 billion, analysts and industry bodies say.
Gupta’s plans, however, emerge as a significant challenge to the push by the coal lobby to fulfil the wish by many in the Coalition and their funders to breathe new life into the coal industry, if not into the atmosphere. Simec Zen may not be the only party with a proposed combination of wind or solar with battery or pumped hydro storage, but it is likely the only one that can guarantee an off-take agreement – with Gupta’s own steelworks.
Simec Zen’s proposal is to combine solar, battery storage and longer-term storage via pumped hydro using pits from the nearby iron ore mines that once supplied the steel smelter. The pumped hydro facility at the Middleback mine would deliver around 110MW and six to eight hours of storage, but the capacity could be doubled to 220MW should an upgrade to the transmission line to the Eyre Peninsula proposed by ElectraNet go ahead. That would take the total cost of the Simec Zen proposal to around $1.3 billion.