THE closing date for the Loy Yang A power station looks set to stay at 2035, but AGL Energy’s new chief executive expects a “bumpy road” as the company continues its drive towards renewable energy.

Damien Nicks, who has just been appointed CEO after being the acting chief executive for several months, will oversee the company’s plan to spend $20 billion on renewable energy generation and storage as it undergoes its transformation from being the nation’s biggest coal generator by 2035.

Mr Nicks told the Australian Financial Review that the market should not expect any changes to the strategy agreed to last September.

“There are going to be bumps along the road. This is not going to necessarily be a purely smooth ride for the whole market,” he told The Australian.

“But for us it’s about having clarity about how we deliver. We’ve got deep plans over the next seven years to 2030. And we’ll continue to refine those plans, and then continue refining those plans out to 2035 as well.”

The strategy unveiled last September brought Loy Yang A’s closure date forward by 10 years from 2045 to 2035 after the coal giant faced growing pressure to speed up its energy transition to renewables. Grok Ventures, its biggest shareholder with more than 12 per cent and controlled by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, had been pushing to close Loy Yang A by 2029.

Grok was responsible last year for AGL cancelling its demerger plan to create a stand-alone coal energy company. The demerger plan was backed by Mr Nicks and the AGL chair, Patricia McKenzie.

Mr Nicks plans to update major shareholders, including Grok, on how it will carry out its green strategy. Grok did not reply to queries from media on Mr Nicks’ appointment as chief executive.

The mainstream media reported that investors were generally happy with Mr Nicks’ appointment. Fund manager and AGL shareholder Geoff Wilson said the big question was whether Mr Nicks could bring the dynamism that the transition needed.

“His key challenges are motivating his team. the agenda is there, it is just a question of will the energy be there to be dynamic and catalytic in change,” he told The Australian.

Debby Blakey, chief executive at superannuation fund HESTA, said Mr Nicks provided “leadership certainty” as AGL embarks on its big challenge to transform its business for a low-carbon future.

“We look forward to hearing how the board and management plan to implement its climate plan, including how the company will support impacted communities,” she told the AFR.

HESTA believed that with strong board leadership and management, there was scope for AGL to raise its ambitions on decarbonisation, she said, shifting form its current 1.8 -degree warming trajectory to align with the more ambitious 1.5-degree pathway in the Paris climate agreement. The Grok camp maintained last year that the 2029 date would push AGL towards the Paris goal.

However, Ms McKenzie, the AGL chair, argued that faster closure of the coal plants was not possible because replacement capacity could not be built in time to keep the lights on and prevent high energy prices.

AGL’s plan to create 12 gigawatts of renewable energy would include 6.5GW of primary generation such as wind and solar farms, and 5.5GW of firming capacity, including batteries and pumped hydro.

To achieve the target, AGL says it would have to build 12 new wind farms the size of its 453 megawatt Coopers Gap operation north-west of Brisbane, and another eight solar plants the size of its 102MW Nyngan solar farm in western NSW.

In addition, it would need 14 new 250MW grid-scale battery stations, supported by at least eight other long-duration energy storage plants, such as pumped hydro operations, hydrogen or bio-fuelled firming projects.

AGL has 3.2GW of firming capacity in its development pipeline and under construction, including a 250MW battery at Torrens Island in South Australia, due for completion this year, The Australian said.

Other elements include the 200MW battery at Loy Yang A, a 500MW battery at Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley, a 50MW battery at Broken Hill, and a 250MW pumped hydro project at Muswellbrook in NSW. The remaining coal-fired units at Liddell will be closed by April and the nearby Bayswater power station by the end of 2033.