22/09/2021 - 10:49

TransAlta steps on gas in green drive

22/09/2021 - 10:49

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Power generator TransAlta hopes to expand its renewable energy presence in Australia.

Kelvin Koay says TransAlta is going greener. Photo: David Henry

Canadian power generation company TransAlta has about 500 megawatts of gas-fired power in its Western Australian portfolio, but green energy is key to the company’s growth strategy.

The first big green opportunity was sparked by decisions made on the other side of the world and the other end of the supply chain.

US-based electric vehicle maker Tesla has been on a drive to cut emissions and shore up the ethics behind battery manufacturing in its inventory.

(view a PDF version of this special report)

Tesla has worked to develop its own cathode material manufacturing capability for its batteries and has piloted a program using blockchain to track nickel shipments from WA to its Gigafactory in Shanghai.

That could be used in a battery passport, which offers consumers transparency for the supply chain of electric vehicle batteries, according to the company’s 2020 annual impact statement.

Earlier this year, Tesla’s Australian chair, Robyn Denholm, said the company expected to spend $1 billion a year on Australian minerals.

In the process, however, it would seek to prioritise a reduction in carbon emissions.

“Mining process currently accounts for roughly half of the carbon footprint of a battery cell,” she said.

BHP Nickel West signed a supply deal with Tesla in July, and lower emissions in processing were a key consideration.

The following week, BHP and TransAlta announced a $73 million solar and battery project in the northern Goldfields, which had been developed as part of a longstanding power purchase agreement between the two companies, which was extended late last year.

TransAlta managing director (Australia) Kelvin Koay told Business News the company recognised green energy as a big opportunity in Australia.

Mr Koay has been with the company for 21 years and moved from Canada to Perth in 2017 with a mandate to grow the business in WA and on the east coast.

He said TransAlta had been an early adopter of wind energy in Canada with a portfolio of around 2000MW, which it hoped to replicate here.

“The renewable resource in Australia is very good,” Mr Koay said.

“The industry and the market are starting to aim towards that decarbonisation solution.

“It really seemed like to us … through 2020, almost in the middle of the pandemic, we really got the sense the market started to double down on wanting to decarbonise.”

Mining, and oil and gas companies were particularly keen to introduce renewables at new and existing mines, Mr Koay said.

This interest was motivated by both social licence and economic impact.

“There’s no question the [environmental, social and governance] movement, the greening of the industry … is on the front page of every board,” Mr Koay said.

“There’s also a lot of opportunities to get the cost of operations lower through building renewables.

“The economics are self-justifying now.

“A lot of resources companies now are starting to come to the conclusion they can get reliable solutions through a hybrid combination.”

Other miners have also been developing renewables projects.

In the Pilbara, Fortescue Metals Group has worked with Alinta to develop a 60MW solar farm at Chichester, while Contract Power will install two batteries totalling 42MW in another project.

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