ARENA to fund First Nations hydrogen project

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

Thursday, 21 March, 2024

ARENA to fund First Nations hydrogen project

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced a $1,666,701 grant to Aboriginal Clean Energy Partnership Pty Ltd (ACEP) to support Phase 1 of a feasibility study for the East Kimberley Clean Energy and Hydrogen Project.

The $3,333,403 Phase 1 feasibility study represents a key step in progressing the development, which plans to generate large-scale renewable energy, renewable hydrogen and renewable ammonia for export from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The project aims to scale up renewable hydrogen production in Western Australia while leading the way in First Nations partnership in renewable energy developments, involving Traditional Owners as shareholders and not just stakeholders in the development phase of clean energy projects.

ARENA will work with ACEP to share best-practice lessons learnt from this partnership model, as well as capacity building opportunities and workforce development by and for First Nations groups.

ACEP was formed in 2022 as a joint venture between native title representative holders Yawoorroong Miriuwung Gajerrong Yirrgeb Noong Dawang Corporation (MG Corporation), Balanggarra Ventures Ltd (Balanggarra) and Kimberley Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (KLC) as well as climate and nature investment and advisory firm Pollination.

Each partner holds an equal share in the partnership, which is created to oversee all aspects of project development, including cultural heritage, native title and environmental approvals, as well as overall feasibility planning. This model ensures that during its physical and commercial design phase the project is majority First Nations owned.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project would demonstrate how First Nations groups can take a leadership role in the energy transition and represented the kind of development Australia needs to deliver on its national goal of becoming a renewable energy superpower.

“The energy transition and a global hydrogen race are well underway,” he said. “ARENA is working with ACEP to explore how First Nations communities can have a greater say and a greater stake in Australia’s renewable hydrogen ambitions.

This project will pave the way for First Nations-led renewable energy developments and ARENA will be working to ensure the lessons we learn from East Kimberley inform future projects.”

“This project will show it is possible to design a future where economic prosperity, Indigenous empowerment and caring for country work hand in hand,” said KLC Chairman Anthony Watson.

Phase 1 of the feasibility study will commence immediately and is due to be complete in five months. If proven feasible, the proposed facility would consist of approximately 1000 MW of solar generation paired with 850 MW of electrolysis capacity on MG Corporation land to produce 50,000 tonnes per annum of renewable hydrogen.

The hydrogen would then be transported by underground pipeline to Balanggarra Country in Wyndham and combined with existing hydropower from the Ord Hydro power station to produce around 250,000 tonnes per annum of renewable ammonia for export from Wyndham Port to key trade partners in Asia as well as for domestic use.

The deployment would be one of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen and ammonia production facilities with an estimated capital cost in the range of $2.7–3.2 billion.

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