What does it say about the future of the energy industry when two former executives in the brown coal industry switch teams, so to speak, and head up solar and clean tech ventures?
Perhaps it means that more leaders are starting to see the writing on the wall and are desiring a future with potential, rather than a future of stranded assets and dropping revenues.
Two former brown coal bosses, Tony Concannon (formerly Australian head of GDF Suez), and Richard McIndoe (former head of Energy Australia), have now moved on to cleaner and greener pastures, with Concannon now heading up Reach Solar, and McIndoe taking up the executive chair of Edge Electrons.
GDF Suez (now Engie) operates, among other energy assets, the Hazelwood power station, which runs on brown coal from a nearby open cut mine in Morwell, so Concannon’s switch to Reach Solar, a solar and battery storage concern, is a fairly radical move on his part, at least when it comes to the potential impact on clean air and clean energy. Energy Australia, which operates the Yallourn Power Station (a complex of six thermal power stations) is also brown coal dependent, and although McIndoe’s move to Edge Electrons, which is working on voltage regulation technologies for homes and businesses, isn’t quite as night-and-day as Concannon’s is, it still speaks volumes about the validity of the transition to more efficient energy consumption.
According to RenewEconomy, both of the companies that Concannon and McIndoe headed up “fought ferociously” against policies that would have assisted the growth of both solar and energy efficiency initiatives in Australia, which could have reduced the demand for their companies’ brown coal-fueled electricity.
“Both companies argued forcefully against the various emissions trading schemes, against the renewable energy target, and against energy efficiency incentives. At times, they took this argument to extremes: McIndoe even warned that the “lights would go out” if carbon was priced. Concannon also warned of supply shortages, and in one speech warned that the renewable energy target would jack up wholesale prices “25-fold.””
These alarmist statements never came to life, though, as Australia actually now “has too much capacity,” which is about par for the course when considering how vociferously industries and companies oppose technologies that have the potential to cut into their profits and share values.
The good news is that the two industries that Concannon and McIndoe are now part of really do have the potential to make a difference, not only in reducing energy costs, but also in reducing GHG emissions and air pollution, not to mention the impact they could have in addressing the issue of climate change.
Reach Solar, which is working to bring new solar PV and solar + storage projects online, could have a viable means of not just marginally offsetting, but even partially replacing the capacity of a brown coal plant, in this case the Northern power station in Port Augusta, South Australia. The company is proposing a large-scale solar plant near Port Augusta, with the first phase being a 30 MW facility, and eventually expanding it into a 200 MW plant. Reports claim that the company also has “a number of agreements” with battery storage developers, including the up-and-comer Tesla Energy, which will be an important piece of the proposed solar plant.
Edge Electrons, which is a startup headed by McIndoe and “electronics entrepreneur” Neal Stewart, is bit different in its approach, as it focuses on energy efficiency instead of production, with which it intends to “shake-up the energy industry” and save customers up to 15% per year on their electricity costs.
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