Lobby’s green tweak
Bows to energy pressure
THE Minerals Council of Australia has launched a new energy policy in the face of BHP Billiton’s threats to leave and activist shareholders targeting its second-biggest member, Rio Tinto.
The new policy — an update to one created in 2012 — calls for reliable and affordable power to be a priority on the path to lower emissions.
It says any new government policy should aim to cut energy prices and retain a focus on securing reliable dispatchable, baseload power.
“The minerals industry acknowledges that sustained global action is required to reduce the risks of human-induced climate change,” the Minerals Council policy says.
“The Australian minerals sector supports a measured transition to a low-emissions global economy.”
BHP last year publicly threatened to leave the industry lobby group if it continued what the miner said was promotion of cleaner coalfired power over other sources and a prioritisation of affordability and reliability over emissions reduction.
The chief executive of BHP’s mining operations in Australia, Mike Henry — who sits on the board of the Minerals Council — later said industry associations “do a lot of good”.
It is not clear yet whether BHP, which is a net beneficiary of higher east coast energy prices because of its Bass Strait gas business, supports the new policy.
But it is understood the Melbourne-based mining titan was consulted during its formation.
Minerals Council members make up about 15 per cent of east coast power demand.
Rio, which has sold out of thermal coal, is facing a shareholder resolution at its upcoming annual meeting asking it to review the climate policies of the industry groups it belongs to.
“Reliable and affordable energy is central to our economy,” the Minerals Council policy says.
“Policy measures must deliver reliable and affordable energy at least cost while putting Australia on a pathway to meeting its emissions reduction targets.
“The MCA believes a technology-neutral approach should be adopted for all low emissions energy sources where no one technology is favoured to the exclusion of others.”
BHP's Minerals Council of Australia board member Mike Henry. Picture: AARON FRANCIS