Renewables cheaper than coal, says Gupta: ‘it’s obvious’

UK industrialist and now Australian steel-maker and energy producer Sanjeev Gupta. Photo GFP

Even UK steel billionaires get the blues. For more than a year now, Sanjeev Gupta has been letting his actions – and investments – do the talking on renewables in Australia.

Since his GFG Alliance bought the ailing Arrium steel producer in Whyalla last July, Gupta and his team have been detailing bigger and better and clearer plans to build up to 10GW of solar, as well as storage, to power his own and other energy intensive industrial majors, and generally revitalise Australia’s manufacturing sector.

But still, the message is not getting through – at least, not to some. And the frustration is starting to show.

‘It’s still everybody’s perception that it is cheaper to make power from coal than it is from renewables, and it is no longer the case,’ Gupta told Guardian Australia in an interview on Monday.

‘It was the case not long ago, but it’s no longer the case, and we will prove it,’ he said.

‘If it was cheaper to make new coal plants, I would argue you should invest in that technology… But it should just turn on what’s more competitive.

‘If you can make power from the sort of things that we’re doing and it can compete against a new coal plant, then why would you not do that, right? It’s obvious.’

Obvious. But not to the Collie shire council, in Western Australia, which just voted against installing rooftop solar on local government buildings because ‘we should be burning more coal.’

And not to the federal government, which continues to claim that the National Energy Guarantee offers the best chance for new coal-fired generation to be built in Australia.

And not to the mainstream media, which chose to interpret the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan – which last week confirmed that the cheapest and smartest replacement for the country’s ageing coal-fired generators would be in solar, wind and storage technologies – as an endorsement for coal power.

That interpretation that was, in turn, lapped up by the likes of federal resources minister Matt Canavan.

Resources minister Matt Canavan echoes ludicrous claims about the AEMO made by the Murdoch media.

But as Simon Holmes à Court reiterates in this piece today, even AEMO’s ‘neutral’ scenario sees renewables overtake coal sometime in 2032, when coal declines from 68 per cent to 22 per cent of the NEM, and renewables grow from 24 per cent to 72 per cent.

‘So much for coal reigning supreme!’

And this unstoppable shift to renewables, and away from coal, is driven by the same set of economic factors that make Gupta’s case for solar and storage powered manufacturing in Australia a no-brainer.

As Holmes a Court explains:

‘It should be noted that AEMO’s modelling algorithmically determines the least cost solution that delivers a mix that meets the scenario’s reliability, security and emissions goals.

‘As such, the scenario is a rigorous, dispassionate and optimal solution to the ‘trilemma’ of cost, reliability and emissions.’

And if that doesn’t make it clear, here’s Gupta, again, in The Guardian:

‘Whatever can be done (politically) to help with this transition I would welcome with open arms, but even if nothing is done we will still make investments. We may make less investments, we may do it slower, but we will still do it anyway because it’s doable,’ he said.

‘Of course, if you have the right tailwind and don’t have a headwind then of course you can do more and you can go faster, and you can do grander and bigger, which is what we would like to do, but it’s not a real issue for us. We will do it anyway.’

This article was first published in RenewEconomy and is reproduced with permission.


One response to “Renewables cheaper than coal, says Gupta: ‘it’s obvious’”

  1. David Saunders Byron Bay says:

    Billions to build new coal power stations. DUMB.
    Now that solar panels and a battery unit for a house is around 10 k and dropping the AU govt could afford to instead of investing in coal power give every home and building in the country its own power plant. Govt would be buying in bulk so it must be much less than 10 k a home.
    This power can be shared so we would have electricity security.
    Australia with its vast dry and hot open spaces could have massive solar farms, wind farms along deserlate coast lines,tidal energy in many places along our vast coastline and in many rivers.
    The technology is advancing rapidly so we will see now unthought of clean energy solutions which we can utilise in the near future.
    The northern tropical Australia could generate electricity from the sun and export it to Indonesia with one of the earths largest populations just a few hundred kilometres across the sea.
    The jobs all this would create would be endless.
    Not to do it now at this time that is a turning point for power generation in Australia would be the greatest of opportunities ever missed.
    Then there is the fossil fuel dinestys barons . Well our govt needs to stand up to these greedy people and just say no. We are all tired of the graft and corruption, enough already.
    As far as Australia exporting coal for needed foreign currency,well that time is over .We can export clean electricity instead.
    I could write a book on why the govt should invest OUR money into renewables 100%NOW.
    It’s going to happen anyhow so let’s do it now. We can’t stand by and let the mogals have their last grab before fossils go for GOOD.

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