While the world was locked down by coronavirus last year, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, was on the move. The billionaire mining magnate and his entourage toured 47 countries over five months, managing to convince some of them to open their borders to the delegation despite the pandemic.
But Forrest wasn’t searching for mineral deposits — he was on the hunt for clean energy. From Kyrgyzstan to Korea to Bhutan, the group was scouting out the best sites for hydropower and geothermal energy. The advantage of travelling during a pandemic, Forrest explains, is that government officials have much more free time. (He did, however, contract Covid-19 en route, necessitating an emergency medical stop in Switzerland.)
When Forrest returned, fully recovered, to Australia, he declared Fortescue, a miner of iron ore, was going all-in on green hydrogen.
He believes the market could be worth as much as $12tn by 2050. “The journey to replace fossil fuels with green energy has been moving at glacial speed for decades — but is now violently on the move,” he said in a TV lecture series.
Over the phone, he is even blunter. “You’ll see change everywhere . . . In 15 years’ time, the world energy scene will look nothing like what it does now,” he says. “Any country which does not take green energy very seriously, but clings to polluting energy, will eventually get left behind. ”