Renewables Replace Coal At Chilean Copper Mines, Drive Earnings Growth At NextEra

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BHP, one of the world’s largest mineral and mining companies, announced this week that it has entered into new renewable energy agreements that will meet the energy needs of its Escondida and Spence copper mining operations in Chile. The objective is for BHP to meet 100% of its energy requirements at the Escondida and Spence mines by the middle of the next decade.

renewable energy at BHP copper mines
Image credit: BHP sustainability report

In a press release, Daniel Malchuk, President of BHP Minerals Americas, says “These new energy contracts will increase flexibility in our portfolio and ensure supply for our operations, while reducing costs and displacing CO2 emissions. From a commercial perspective, these contracts – the largest signed by an unregulated customer in Chile – will allow an estimated 20% reduction in energy prices in Escondida and Spence operations.”

He added, “Good business considers both financial value and social value in decision making, in the long-term interest of shareholders. This is an important step in our transition to the use of sustainable energy in the medium term in Chile.”

The contract with Enel Generación Chile calls for the supply of 3 TWh of electricity annually for 15 years years beginning August of 2021. A 10-year contract with Colbún will supply another 3 TWh of electricity for 10 years. starting in January 2022.

The contracts will keep 3 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually after 2022 — equivalent to the annual emissions of around 700,000 cars with combustion engines. They will also save the company $ 780 million from the cancellation of existing contracts for the supply of coal.

Saving Water Too

Mining operations require a lot of water. Until recently, BHP has relied on groundwater to quench the thirst of its mines. Going forward, the company will rely on water from desalinization plants at its Spence and Escondida facilities. At the Spence location, a new desalinization plants with a capacity of 1,000 liters per second will begin operating in 2020 and will supply virtually all of the water needed at that site. The Escondida facility has been using desalinated water since 2017.

“Water is critical for our operations in Chile and for the communities where we operate in the Atacama Desert,” the company says. “In addition to our new desalination plant in Spence, we have invested more than US $4 billion in desalination facilities in Escondida to advance the elimination of groundwater use by 2030. This is consistent with our commitment to deliver social value as well as long-term value for our shareholders. We hope to improve transparency and leadership in the responsible management of water in the industry in the coming years.”

Renewables Boost Profits For NextEra

NextEra renewable energy
Image credit: NextEra Sustainability Report 2019

You know how conservatives reactionaries are always nattering on about how expensive renewables are? Don’t believe any of their Koch Brothers inspired lies. NextEra energy, parent company to Florida Power & Light, NextEra Energy Resources, NextEra Energy Partners, Gulf Power Company, and NextEra Energy Services, has been investing heavily in renewable energy resources for several years and those investments have done wonders for its bottom line.

In total, it has a net generating capacity of 45,500 megawatts and employs more than 14,000 people. In the past 15 years, the value of its stock has risen 770%, according to the NextEra website. The Motley Fool says “earnings from NextEra’s energy resource segment grew by nearly 23% year over year. The main driver of that growth was new projects that have come online over the past 12 months, which added $0.22 per share to the company’s bottom line during the quarter.”

“NextEra Energy Resources continues to capitalize on one of the best environments for renewables development in our history, with our backlog increasing by approximately 1,375 megawatts,” CEO Jim Robo commented in the company’s latest earnings press release. Overall, the company added 285 MW of new wind projects and 747 MW of solar plus 341 MW of battery storage during the quarter.

Now if only competitors like Duke Energy and Dominion Energy would stop dragging their heels and join the renewable energy revolution with the same vigor as NextEra has done, the US could be much further down the path to energy independence without interfering with the prospects for solid profitability in the utility sector.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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