The deputy governor of Australia’s central bank, Guy Debelle, has “stunned” the country’s financiers by resigning to take up a new role as chief financial officer at green hydrogen start-up Fortescue Future Industries (FFI).
It is something of a coup for FFI’s owner, iron-ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, who aims to make his new company a world leader in renewable hydrogen production — with 15 million tonnes by 2030 — and other green technologies.
Debelle, who has been deputy governor of the interest-rate-setting institution since 2016, had widely been expected to replace current governor Philip Lowe, whose term ends next year. The past three governors of the Reserve Bank of Australia had all been deputy governors prior to their appointments.
The move has “stunned monetary policy circles”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Bringing in someone of Dr Debelle’s economic credibility goes to the heart of our vision for FFI,” said Forrest. “Not only are we committed to arresting climate change, we are also committed to creating economic growth, increasing jobs and growing our business profitability.”
Perth-based FFI has said it will need to raise “billions and billions of dollars” to make its ambitious plans come to fruition. Not only does it aim to build gigawatts of green hydrogen and renewables projects around the world, but it also wants to manufacture electrolysers, zero-emissions engines, wind turbines, solar panels and batteries.
Last month, the company began construction on a new 2GW electrolyser factory in Queensland, Australia, which will use technology developed by US electrolyser maker Plug Power.
Debelle — who chairs the Council of Financial Regulators’ climate change working group and has worked in the public sector for 34 years — told the Sydney Morning Herald that it was a chance for him to make a real impact on global warming.
“Looking at what’s happening in Australia, Fortescue Future Industries is doing more than anyone now and in prospect,” he said.
“Given the opportunities in this country and elsewhere to deal with climate change, this is a great option.”
He added in a statement: “Australia has been an energy exporter for many decades. And there is no reason why this should change. Australia is also endowed with resources that have the potential for us to continue to be an exporter of energy – but renewable rather than emissions-intensive fossil fuels.
“I see this as an incredibly exciting opportunity for the future of our country and the world.”
Debelle, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Australian Treasury, has never worked in the private sector.
When he starts his new role in June, he will also lead FFI’s new office in Sydney.