"We need to ensure that greenhouse gas data, which is mostly energy data, is up to the same level of rigor and verification as financial data."
Can you highlight some success stories where Thorn Associates supported clients with regards to decarbonization and energy management?
Thorn Associates has assisted many mining companies in developing their climate change strategies. We have an exciting climate change strategy project with Yamana Gold. They initially aimed to achieve a 2 degree target, but now, based on work that we have done with them, they are planning to raise their ambition and commit to a science-based 1.5 degree target. Thorn Associates did both a top down and bottom up approach to show the implications of a 2 degree and a 1.5-degree target. We did workshops at all of their sites and looked at greenhouse gas reduction opportunities, as well as climate change risks and opportunities and climate change resiliency aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures recommendations. Another one of our mining clients has committed to net negative emissions by 2050 through both removing its GHG emissions to as close to zero as possible and in addition, to net positive biodiversity.
What is the best strategy for the mining sector to truly have an impact on the planet?
In terms of decarbonization, there are two major aspects that mining companies need to consider – using renewable electricity and electrifying mobile equipment. Mining companies need to get as much of their energy consumption from renewable electricity as this contributes approximately 30-60% to their carbon footprint. With great progress being made on battery electric solutions, electrifying your fleet and equipment can contribute greatly to decarbonization. Another solution is to implement conveyors into the process wherever possible to limit the need for diesel vehicles. The Science Based Targets initiative has recently come out with a new net-zero standard which specifies that companies should first try and reduce emissions as much as possible and only use carbon offsets for residual emissions which should be no more than 5% to 10% of your total emissions. In addition to the two large decarbonization levers, namely renewable electricity and a zero carbon fleet, energy efficiency should also continue to be optimized.
Can you define what net-zero actually looks like in business?
Net-zero refers to when a company no longer has a net release of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. From a net-zero perspective, the target is to completely negate the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity into the atmosphere, which can be achieved by reducing emissions through renewable electricity usage and electrification and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Is it possible for the world to reach decarbonization targets without sequestering or something more radical?
Carbon sequestration is an important technology contributing to decarbonization efforts, but is not necessary in all commodity mining practices. For example, in gold mining sequestering would often not be necessary to reach a net-zero target, but in the steel industry, carbon sequestration will likely be required. Sequestration is currently still a very expensive technology and if a sector can reach net-zero without it, less expensive options would be preferred.
What role do renewable energies, particularly wind and solar, play in our current transition economy since both cannot really replace fossil fuels and still need fossil fuel backups?
Renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar will play a major role as battery prices for utility scale batteries are continuing to come down exponentially. Instead of a fossil fuel backup, the possibility for a battery backup is there, and many companies have already started to incorporate battery backup for their renewable energy sources, where the batteries can also be charged on renewables. Renewable energy is experiencing substantially more new growth than fossil fuels and will continue to play a major role in this transition era.
Do you have a final message for our readership?
As a sector, I believe that we need to move forward on better data validation and verification for greenhouse gasses. We need to ensure that greenhouse gas data, which is mostly energy data, is up to the same level of rigor and verification as financial data.