The head of Queensland’s Tomago Aluminium told local media yesterday that he supports the federal government’s plan to build a natural gas power generation plant as long as his firm’s smelter gets a “like-for-like” supply of electricity when the nearby coal-fired plant is shut down.
Matt Howell spoke with local media about the situation, hailing the state’s zinc plant for committing to run entirely on renewable energy. However, he said their aluminium smelter was a different story.
“I spent a bit of time on the zinc industry, and I know for a fact that they can ramp down the current in a zinc furnace, and just leave it there for a few days.”
“But you can’t do that with aluminium, you can’t do it with a blast furnace,” he continued. “So every metal is different and we need to really understand the industry and then how do we help them transition.”
Therefore, Tomago Aluminium required some form of fossil fuel to continue operation. Something must fill the gap left when the coal-fired plant shuts down in three years, noting that the controversial 1,000-megawatt natural gas power plant under consideration by the federal government was among the possibilities his firm supported.
“Anything that promises to be more reliable, cheaper, cleaner, should be looked at,” he told local media.
“I have no doubt that in the decades to come we’ll have firmed renewables […] but to survive the interim, that’s where gas is the perfect transition fuel.”
Howell went on to say that he was apprehensive that power price spikes and power shortages would become more common due to the transition to renewable energy.
“Just last week we had five hours of offline interruptions,” he lamented.
Howell stands in opposition to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s opinion, which holds that the planned natural gas plant is overkill and the result of outdated models.