Months after stepping down as Northern Territory (NT) chief minister, Michael Gunner has accepted the role as head of renewable energy company Fortescue Future Industries’ (FFI) new northern Australia team.
Gunner, who resigned as chief minister in May, said his new role would see him focussed on creating renewable energy jobs across the NT and northern Western Australia that would bring about “world-changing, economy building projects”.
“Territorians are keen for the renewable energy sector to take off and the employment intensive industries that renewables need,” he said.
“(FFI) is a massive global company with one ambition: create green energy sustainably and commercially that ends our reliance on fossil fuel. FFI are at the starting line for world-changing, economy building mega projects to create green energy in WA’s northwest, and in the Territory.”
FFI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australian-based iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group, has repeatedly declared the company’s goal is to become the world’s leading, integrated, fully renewable energy and green products company.
Its plans include establishing a global portfolio of renewable green hydrogen and green ammonia projects capable of producing 15 million tons per year of green hydrogen by 2030, rising to 50 million tons per year in the decade thereafter.
Gunner, who remained on the backbench until July, will start as the company’s head of Northern Australia in November, in accordance with ministerial guidelines that forbid a former minister from taking up work relating to any of their previous portfolios for six months.
Fortescue chair Andrew Forrest said Gunner was the right man for the job and would aid the company’s vision for FFI in northern Australia.
“We see enormous potential in the Northern Territory, with abundant wind and solar energy, and a community enthusiastic to embrace renewable energy and the employment intensive industries that come with it,” he said.
The confirmation of Gunner’s appointment is the second major announcement made in recent days that involves the renewable energy industry in the NT.
On Friday, Australian technology billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes was named chairman of clean energy start-up Sun Cable, which is seeking to secure funds for a proposed $30 billion-plus (USD 19.3 billion) solar power export project.
Singapore-based Sun Cable plans to supply solar power from the NT to Singapore and eventually Indonesia through the world’s longest subsea high voltage cable, linked to a 17-20 GW solar farm, as well as an energy storage facility of up to 42 GWh.
“Australia can and should be a global leader in clean energy exports,” said Cannon-Brookes, who has been an investor in Sun Cable through his private firm Grok Ventures since November 2019.
FFI founder Forrest is also backing the project, formally called the Asia-Australia Power Link, through his private firm, Squadron Energy.