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Indigenous communities are partnering with climate change advisory firm Pollination to deliver one of Australia’s largest clean energy projects, producing green hydrogen products for domestic and export markets.

The East Kimberley Clean Energy Project will take advantage of the region’s abundant sunshine, fresh water and export-ready harbour to create Australia’s first 100 per cent renewable energy hydrogen and ammonia production hub.

The project is being created under a first-of-its-kind partnership in which the traditional owners of the land – MG Corporation and Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation, will join the Kimberley Land Council and Pollination as equal shareholders of the project development process and the company created to oversee it, Aboriginal Clean Energy (ACE).

Project scoping has been completed and development will continue over the next 12 months. Pending the completion of feasibility and capital raising stages, construction could commence as early as late 2025 with first production by end of 2028.

Stage one works

Stage one of the project involves building a greenfield 900MW solar farm – the largest in Australia – and a 50,000tpa hydrogen production facility – on MG Corporation freehold land near Kununurra, Western Australia. Electrolysis will convert fresh water from Lake Argyle into green hydrogen, which will be transported via a new 120km pipeline to the existing Port of Wyndham.

The hydro facility at Lake Argyle will supply baseload renewable energy to an ammonia production facility in Wyndham, producing approximately 250,000tpa of green ammonia. The result will be Australia’s first and only 100 per cent renewable green hydrogen and ammonia project.

Green ammonia produced by the facility will be used locally in agriculture and for export to key trading partners in Asia and Europe.

Stage one is designed to leverage the region’s existing assets including:

  • The Port of Wyndham, which has an ideal location and is well suited for exports to Asia
  • The existing Ord Hydro facility and electricity transmission network
  • Road networks and airport facilities that link key sites to be used for production and distribution

A just vision

Pollination Head of Projects, Rob Grant, said that this project represents a just, ambitious and achievable vision for Australia’s clean energy future.

“It leverages the natural advantages and existing energy and port infrastructure already in place in the East Kimberley region to create a major new clean energy export hub that will help Australia and our region decarbonise, grow new industries and ensure traditional owners and local residents are shareholders, not just stakeholders, in the benefits,” Mr Grant said. 

“The main requirements for green hydrogen production are clean water, sunlight and renewable energy sources and all are abundantly available in this project,” Mr Grant said.

“Dozens of governments worldwide, many of them in our neighbourhood, have already issued a hydrogen strategy – flagging how critical this resource is going to be as the world moves towards net zero.”

“The Australian Government has placed green hydrogen at the heart of its plans to become a clean energy superpower in the future global economy and this is exactly the kind of project that will be critical in making good on that ambition.”

The project will be planned, created and managed by the ACE Partnership, the new company in which equal shares are owned by MG Corporation, Kimberley Land Council, Balanggarra Ventures and Pollination.

The partnership model allows an integrated development process for heritage, native title, environmental and engineering approvals using true co-design and co-decision making from the partnership’s shareholders.

The ACE Partnership said the model is a fairer and more just approach compared to how resource projects have traditionally been developed. It is also one that significantly reduces project development risk and shortens the project’s development schedule.

Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Cissy Gore-Birch, said the ACE partners bring differentiated but crucial individually lived experience and knowledge to this project. 

“From cultural heritage, social engagement and remote land management to renewable energy and green hydrogen project and industry experience, the suite of skills required to effectively deliver this ambitious project on traditional lands in the East Kimberley exists only within this consortium,” Ms Gore-Birch said. 

MG Corporation Executive Chair, Lawford Benning, said the partnership represented an important way forward for traditional owners.

“A focus on First Nations economic empowerment has led groups like ours to reject the historic passive engagement model of receiving royalties for agreeing to give up control of our lands,” Mr Benning said.

“This project gives us a chance to be active shareholders, understanding the risks and rewards, and making informed decisions about long-term strategic projects on our Country. Anything we do must be sustainable, intergenerational and connect culture and heritage.”

KLC CEO, Tyronne Gartsone, said the partnership represented an entirely new model for First Nations involvement in large infrastructure projects and the clean energy sector and could be replicated across Australia in order to help deliver on the nation’s climate change commitments.

“The recent Melbourne and Queensland University Net Zero Australia report shows that at least 45 per cent of the renewable energy we need to decarbonise our domestic and export energy supply will be located on land that is subject to native title,” Mr Gartsone said. 

“We cannot have a just transition to net zero without First Nations ownership of the solution and projects that ensure we can get there.”

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