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Australia Expands Mandate to Support Clean Energy Tech

The Australian Government recently implemented changes to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) legislation that will enable the Agency to support the next generation of energy technologies. ARENA will continue to support Australian innovation and R&D in renewable energy, as well as low, zero and negative emissions technologies.

The broadened remit will allow ARENA to support technologies contained in the Low Emissions Technology Statement (LETS) such as hydrogen, energy storage to back up renewable energy, low emissions aluminium and steel production, carbon capture and soil carbon. In addition, the regulation will ensure that ARENA can deliver the targeted programs outlined in the 2020-21 Federal Budget; the Future Fuels Fund, Industrial Energy Transformation Studies Program, Regional Australia Microgrids Pilot Program and the Freight Energy Productivity Program.

In 2020, the Australian Government announced a total funding package of $1.62 billion for ARENA including guaranteed baseline funding of $1.43 billion over the next ten years. The funding and expanded set of technologies will allow ARENA to continue to work together with energy industry participants, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, research institutions and other agencies to support innovation in clean energy technologies across the innovation chain.

ARENA is also working on the four targeted Budget Measures that will support more affordable and reliable power in regional Australia, new transport infrastructure and increase the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries. The CEO Darren Miller said the mandate allows ARENA to continue to be the agency that works at the forefront of innovation. As technologies such as solar and wind mature, we must be able to move forward and support the next generation of clean energy technologies.

Over its lifetime, ARENA has helped to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies such as large-scale solar, pumped hydro, battery storage, distributed energy and hydrogen. ARENA has supported 586 projects with $1.7 billion in grant funding, unlocking $6.92 billion of total investment in renewable energy.

As technologies have matured, ARENA’s focus has evolved from supporting pure renewable energy generation technologies to assisting with the integration of these technologies to support the operation of the system with ever-increasing shares of variable renewable energy, the CEO added. ARENA’s current investment priorities include a focus on integrating renewables into the grid, accelerating the uptake of hydrogen and supporting the industry to reduce emissions.

Queensland clean energy initiative greenlit

Australia’s first pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) system in 37 years is set to begin construction the financial close is reached the Kidston Stage 2 PHES project. The $777 million project (including required transmission infrastructure) will be the first pumped hydro plant to be built in Australia since 1984 and the first to be used specifically to support the integration of variable renewable energy generation from solar and wind.

Located at the former Kidston Gold Mine at the Kidston Clean Energy Hub in North Queensland, the facility will produce approximately 250 MW / 2,000 MWh of baseload power, equivalent to eight hours of energy storage.

ARENA will provide $47 million in funding towards the project. ARENA also already provided funding for feasibility and development totalling $9 million for this current pumped hydro stage, as well as initially providing $8.9 million towards Genex’s 50 MW Kidston Solar Project in 2016. The project is also supported with $610 million in concessional debt finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

ARENA’s CEO said that the Kidston PHES project will supply dispatchable, renewable energy to the grid when and where it is needed and provide a blueprint for how we store excess solar and wind energy at scale. He noted, “Projects like this play a significant role in progressing Australia’s energy transition. Storage solutions such as pumped hydro and large-scale batteries are a key part in providing backup power and grid stability as highlighted in the Australian Government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement.”

ARENA has previously supported 16 PHES projects with over $28 million including the feasibility studies for Snowy 2.0 and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation.

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