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August 5, 2022

Rio Tinto’s big energy project attracts multiple bidders

The company seeks to offset its power consumption with a massive renewable plant.

By Matt Farmer

British and Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has attracted multiple bids for a massive renewable power infrastructure project.

The company currently seeks suppliers to build up to 4GW of renewable generation for its alumina and aluminium operations in Queensland, Australia. Speaking to the Melbourne Mining Club, the company’s CEO of Australia, Kellie Parker, said that it had received proposals for “a lot more than 4GW”. Parker also said that construction of the project “would not be easy” due to the cost of construction for Australian projects.

When laying out the contract in June, Rio Tinto aluminium chief executive Ivan Vella said: “As Queensland’s largest energy user, we have an important role to play in driving the development of competitive renewable energy sources for our Gladstone assets and supporting the state’s renewable energy targets.”

The project would power the company’s Boyne aluminium smelter, as well as the Yarwun and Queensland alumina refineries. Collectively, these require 1.14GW of continuous power. In order to source this from renewables, the company seeks a much larger generation capacity, backed by energy storage.

The company said it has received several proposals for construction of the plant, but did not give any details of the estimated cost.

If built, the project would become one of the world’s largest single renewable generation projects, equivalent to one-third of Australia’s existing renewable generation. It would also become the largest private project designed to offset industrial use, rather than contributing to the grid in general. Rio Tinto has not yet said what specific relationship the company would have to the project, or how it would act in the eyes of transmission systems operators.

The project rivals the scale of the planned Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the Northern Territories, which would create 11GW of capacity from onshore solar and wind plants.

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