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INTERVIEW: AMTE eyes electrifying mining business

Highlights

ESG essential to fund raising

UK gigaplant still in pipeline

New York — UK-based AMTE Power is looking at exporting its technology to Australia, with sights set on helping the mining industry lower its carbon footprint by possibly electrifying its fleet, alongside other battery solutions, company director Kevin Brundish told S&P Global Platts.

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On Sept. 15, the battery cell manufacturer signed a Memorandum of Understanding with infrastructure specialist InfraNomics, in an attempt to build lithium batteries in Western Australia for the growing storage sector.

AMTE said solar prices have fallen by around 90%, battery prices by 87% and wind costs by 67% over the past 10 years, making the increased adoption of renewable energy and associated batteries increasingly attractive.

Brundish said COVID-19 has amplified the need for local supply chains.

The subject matter is hot on both government and private sector lips, as the world races to achieve net-zero carbon emissions ambitions.

Brundish said local supply chains was a business AMTE has always been in, so the coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for its business model.

"We are the missing link in supply chains. The pandemic is another dynamic in creating indigenous supply chains. This is a brilliant time for the UK."

Governments globally are increasingly supporting the renewable sector as the world aims to target a sustainable net-zero emissions future.

The UK government needs to accelerate the delivery of electric vehicle charging points and invest in a UK-based battery factory in order for the country to meet its net-zero ambitions, according to the Confederation of British Industry on Sept. 14.

Speaking at a CBI Net-Zero Conference, Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said the UK must become a global leader in climate action to create new green jobs and lift productivity post-pandemic.

Renewable energy independence

On the subject of the Australian MOU, David Pell, head of sales and marketing at AMTE, said the mining sector was in the company's crosshairs -- Australia being able to rely on solar power was a strength for miners, who often operate in remote areas.

Large battery storage can capture and store that energy, keeping it off grid, allowing miners not only to lower their carbon footprint but also achieve energy independence.

The space has been getting some solid PR in recent weeks.

To run its operations around the clock on carbon-free energy, Google said it will pair solar and wind power and increase its use of battery storage while conserving electricity and improving forecasting.

At the same time, "smart policy" and new technology and transaction systems for clean energy will also be needed to reach that target, the tech group said.

On the matter of being in the mining business, Brundish noted its importance to AMTE, as it digs up the raw material the manufacturer needs to create battery cells. If AMTE can assist in lowering the carbon footprint, it will benefit its own business model as well at the mining sector.

"Mining is for sure on our radar," the director said.

In the wake of the pandemic, local as well as transparent supply chains have been thrust into the spotlight, as environmental, social and governance metrics continue to climb the ladder of importance for investors.

On the matter of raising money, Brundish said while it can be challenging, being ESG-centric helped in getting capital to the table.

"More and more pension funds are getting into the ethical/sustainable space. ESG will be pivotal moving forward, towards a sustainable future," he said.

In a sign of the times, former Bank of England governor Mark Carney recently moved to Brookfield Asset Management to head up its growing ESG investment strategy division. The fund has around $550 billion in assets under management, and sees ESG as a key component to driving alpha in coming years.

Gigaplant still in plans

Brundish said the move to Australia was a not switch in strategy, away from battery plant plans in the UK.

The company still has its sights set on building a battery factory in the UK, but things of that magnitude did not happen overnight, he said.

Three sites remained in contention with the favorite, and most talked about in the industry, being Dundee. The other two were Teesside and Wales.

"Scotland is rich in low carbon, renewable, green energy. We are keen on a sustainable future," Brundish said.

Whilst AMTE and fellow UK manufacturer Britishvolt always had their own ambitions, an MOU signed previously between the two companies recognizes the opportunity to potentially work together on an EV gigaplant going forward, according to Brundish.

Separately, Britishvolt signed a MOU with the Welsh government in a bid to build the UK's first large-scale EV battery factory, the company said July 17.

The plant is aiming for commercially viable capacity of 30 GWh, staggered over three tranches, with a 200-MW solar plant alongside to assist in making the manufacturing of batteries as green as possible, it said.