Mining sector steps up to address energy challenges

Mining companies are increasingly investing in renewable solutions like solar panels. Image credit: WhyAfrica

By John Lewis, Managing Director, Aggreko Africa

26 July 2021 – The mining sector has stepped up to address its energy challenges, despite facing complex economic and environmental challenges.

Changing the face of energy consumption and innovation demands big and bold ideas. It asks that organisations, sectors, and service providers invest in solutions that change how energy is consumed, created, and managed.

And the mining sector has been meeting these big and bold requests head-on. This sector, facing complex economic and environmental challenges, has stepped up to the renewable and inventive energy plate and collaborated with leading service providers to create solutions that will benefit African businesses and people over the long and short term.

It is the mining industry that has looked to new ideas and new ways of thinking when it comes to the supply of renewable energy, and this focus has paved the way for other industries around the world. Mining companies have been consistent in their focus to find and implement innovative power solutions that help them to meet their emission targets and remain connected to reliable energy sources when traditional methods have failed.

This sector is not stuck in the past. It has long since recognised the value of embracing new technology and harnessing renewable resources to provide trusted energy supplies that keep the lights on, and the mines running. As a result, African mining companies have invested in intelligent hybrid solutions that have garnered global attention and interest thanks to their simple and effective use of local and renewable resources.

A changing market

South Africa has made significant shifts in its approach to renewable energy consumption and recent moves by the government to mandate that allows businesses to generate up to 100MW of energy has introduced a new era in energy management and development in the country.

Other African countries, such as Nigeria, are also following suit in relaxing traditional generation and distribution models and paving the way for decentralised power. This, alongside dedicated investment by sectors, such as mining, into renewable and inventive energy solutions has led to increased opportunity and has significantly reduced the cost of operations for organisations within these sectors.

With the right renewable and intelligent energy platforms, organisations can tap into resources that play a measurable role in managing costs, improving efficiencies, reducing reliance on the energy grid, and transforming productivity.

Hybrid solutions have become increasingly relevant – many companies have found these to provide them with the right balance of energy provision across different platforms and options. This move to hybrid is set to transform the mining sector as the energy mix becomes less about trying to manage an unreliable grid and more about mixing different options into one cohesive offering that delivers consistently, on-demand. It also allows for those sectors producing significant volumes of energy to feed it back to the grid, supporting the traditional energy providers with additional energy that can loop back into its supply.

Redefining the future

The next few years will see an impressive transformation of the mining sector as companies continue to incorporate renewables into their energy mix. Many hybrid projects, such as the Granny Smith Gold Mine in Australia, are ahead of the global curve and are setting the standard for the mining industry around the world, with mines in Africa set to follow suit.

Aggreko, a mobile and modular power provider, has led multiple teams that are dedicated to bringing new and innovative technology to customers, placing innovation and technology at the heart of projects and planning across the mining sector. The teams have looked at the potential of green hydrogen, modular wind solutions, and re-deployable solar solutions as hybrid and intelligent options that can support mobile and rural organisations.

In mining, Aggreko has developed a mobile and containerised PV solution and has subsequently secured four major solar contracts designed to power mines throughout their lifecycles. These units are highly mobile and provide flexible solar power to mines and rural communities for a shorter contract duration that can be anything from months to five years. This innovation opens the door to more renewable power for the mining industry and can be implemented in locations that previously were considered out of scope.

Innovation in invention

Aggreko supports big mines in achieving their goals of reducing carbon emissions and the use of diesel with 50% by 2030. The company is focused on helping the sector to minimise its reliance on long-term investment into energy sources, but rather take on shorter-term energy investments that allow for them to adapt and pivot as required, and in line with evolving energy provision methodologies.

This is an entirely new way of thinking, a new way of moving ahead as a sector, one that reduces reliance on potentially harmful energy consumption methodologies and instead allows for any business in any sector to change its focus and its investment as needed. This removes the risk of stranded assets and tied-up capital while allowing for a risk-free and reliable investment into energy solutions that are flexible, immediate, and environmentally relevant.

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