The mining industry is one of the most energy-intensive industries globally, a situation that is compounded by its intensive use of fossil fuels to power its operations.
The energy transition, which has seen a global shift toward reducing energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in a bid to limit climate change, has meant that the resultant pressure on the mining sector to reduce its carbon footprint remains unabated, Aggreko Africa MD JOHN LEWIS tells CHANTELLE KOTZE.
Against the backdrop of volatile commodity prices, which is affecting many mining companies’ ability to invest large amounts of capital to “keep the lights on”, they still need to keep their operations running smoothly by improving efficiencies now more than ever before.
Mine operators are therefore facing a dilemma: How to integrate renewable energy into their power solutions in an environment where investment is hard to come by.
Lewis says that mining companies can now avoid the massive capital expenditure by making use of flexible, modular power solutions on a rental basis, which provides more financial flexibility than outright equipment purchase and allows capacity to be quickly adapted to the changing needs of a mine’s life-cycle.
“We often find that even when mining companies have capital available, they would rather invest it into digging ore from the ground, which is worth more to them than running a power plant,” explains Lewis.
“By taking on the cost of generating power, power producers such as ourselves deploy our capital on generating power. This business model fosters a symbiotic relationship between power producers and mining companies in that both are able to make returns on their investments by focusing on their respective core business functions,” says Lewis.
Hybrid solutions: A step towards decarbonisation
Hybrid power plants, which combine cost-effective and renewable energy and battery storage with the reliability of thermal energy have been growing in popularity over the past few years.
Hybrid energy solutions have become the go-to choice for mining companies seeking safe and stable electricity, especially in remote areas, as they aim to reduce a mine’s diesel consumption, energy costs as well as carbon footprint.
“The use of hybrid power solutions at mines is only set to increase,” says Lewis, as mining companies have found that hybrid energy solutions provide them with the agility needed to respond to the quickly-evolving energy landscape and the rapidly changing mining industry, while still delivering on the decarbonisation agenda.
Having delivered energy solutions for over 20 years, Aggreko provides a range of temporary, through to longer term, modular energy systems that are deployable anywhere, no matter how remote.