Greens call for government grant to turn Portland aluminium smelter into a big battery

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have called on the Andrews Labor Government to end their $200 million taxpayer subsidies for the Portland smelter, and instead provide the smelter with a $50 million dollar upgrade so that it can be turned into a ‘reverse battery’ powered by renewable energy.

The smelter is currently powered by the dirtiest coal electricity in the world from Victoria’s ageing coal power stations. Victorian taxpayers subsidise Alcoa’s energy use to the tune of $50 million a year, but this arrangement is set to end next June.

The Andrews Government has kept the details of this arrangement secret from the public.

The Portland smelter is at risk of closure as Alcoa looks to reduce its carbon footprint and retire a number of smelters around the world, which would cost Portland 1,500 jobs.

However, the Greens believe that instead of closing the Portland operation and laying off its 1,500 workers, the government could help it transform into a ‘reverse battery’.

In order to achieve this, the smelter would need five to ten new renewable energy projects to supply its energy needs, as well as a $50 million dollar upgrade so that it could significantly reduce its energy use on days of high energy demand, like during the summer peak.

This would prevent energy peaks and blackouts, and lessen the state’s reliance on coal and peaking gas. The upgrade could be provided by the government as a grant or low interest loan.

Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, said this would help over summer by freeing up energy and driving down the price of electricity for everyone.

The push to upgrade the smelter is part of the Greens’ renewables-led recovery plan and Green New Deal for Victoria, a plan announced this week which also includes building Victoria’s first offshore wind farm in Gippsland, upgrading every home in Victoria with energy efficiency measures, putting solar and batteries on public housing and upgrading the grid.

As stated by Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell MP:

“Taxpayers already give Alcoa $50 million a year in a secret deal arranged by the Andrews Labor Government. Instead of giving them taxpayer money to use polluting coal power, why not give them a grant to use renewable energy and become a ‘reverse battery’?”

“If we do nothing, Alcoa is likely to close and 1,500 people will lose their jobs. Instead, we could upgrade the smelter so it runs on renewable energy and is also able to cut its energy use during days of peak demand, which brings down bills for every Victorian.

“This is an innovative idea that saves jobs and saves the climate – what’s not to like?”

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