A decade ago, the Australian resources sector was firmly opposed to renewable energy. It was sceptical about the technology and sensitive to anything that it thought might drive up power prices or impact coal demand.
However, last week one of Australia’s biggest miners – Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) – became the first resources major to join the Clean Energy Council, with FMG Non-executive Chairman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest AO also agreeing to speak as a keynote at next month’s Australian Clean Energy Summit.
The Australian resources sector has come to understand the ability of renewable energy to provide reliable and low-cost power, particularly in the remote locations where many mines are situated. At the same time, domestic and international demand for a new generation of minerals that Australia is blessed with – such as cobalt, bauxite, lithium and nickel – presents an enormous opportunity for another resources boom that could dwarf the one seen in the 2000s. And the environmental credentials of this next generation of mining will be further boosted if it’s powered by zero emissions electricity.
There are now many dozens of renewable energy projects being underpinned by major resources companies, while global customers for their products are increasingly demanding transparency on the emissions profile of the resources that they are purchasing. It’s a virtuous cycle that can see Australia’s renewable energy sector drive the next resources boom.