Rio Tinto to Buy All Electricity from Australia Solar Farm for Gladstone Operations

Looking at a solar energy field from above.

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Jan 25, 2024

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Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, has agreed to buy all electricity from Australia’s largest solar power project, the 1.1 gigawatt Upper Calliope Solar Farm. 

The deal will drive development of the plant with Rio Tinto buying all electricity generated from the Upper Calliope solar farm for 25 years. The site will provide renewable power to Rio Tinto’s Gladstone operations, and the agreement will bring more renewable power into an important Australian industrial hub.

The deal also aligns with Rio Tinto’s goal of halving its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions within the decade. European Energy will build and operate the plant southwest of Gladstone, pending development and grid connection approvals. The plant could lower Rio Tinto’s operating carbon emissions by 1.8 million tons per year. 

“This agreement is a first important step in our work to repower our Gladstone operations and illustrates our commitment to keeping a sustainably powered industry in Central Queensland,” said Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm. “The task remains challenging, but we have a pathway to provide the competitive, firmed power our Gladstone plants need and we are continuing to work hard with all stakeholders, including the Queensland and Australian governments, on getting there. Competitive capacity, firming, and transmission are critical to developing a modern energy system that can ensure more large-scale renewables development in Queensland and help guarantee the future of Australian industry.”

Once approved, construction of the Upper Calliope plant is targeted to start in 2025 or 2026 and is expected to take two years to complete. The plant will provide enough electricity to meet about 5% of Queensland’s current demand.

Rio Tinto’s Sustainability Initiatives

The agreement is among a slew of announcements from Rio Tinto over the past few years as the company aims to reduce its emissions.

In late 2023, the company announced plans to switch from fossil fuel consumption to renewable diesel at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah. The mining giant also partnered with Prysmian to decarbonize the renewable energy supply chain by establishing a supply agreement for low-carbon aluminum and planning to develop solutions to meet North American electrification demand.

The mining industry is responsible for 4%-7% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and is facing increasing pressure to reduce emissions and decarbonize the space.

Upper Calliope is the first successful formal Request for Proposals by Rio Tinto for renewable power and firming projects in Central and Southern Queensland, the company said.

“The Upper Calliope Solar Farm is not just a solar power project; it’s a testament to our shared vision for a greener future,” European Energy CEO Erik Andersen said in a statement. “By supplying renewable energy to one of Australia’s key industrial hubs, we are setting a new standard for industrial energy consumption. This project underlines our dedication to driving the transition towards renewable energy in Australia and demonstrates the potential of solar power in transforming the energy landscape of the region. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Rio Tinto and other stakeholders to create a sustainable and energy-efficient future for Australia.”

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