The Australian government has rejected proposals for a $36 billion wind, solar, and hydrogen energy complex in a remote region of Western Australia, thereby killing one of the world’s largest green energy projects.

Sussan Ley, environment minister, determined that the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) will have “obviously undesirable impacts” on globally recognized wetlands and migratory bird species.

The AREH project, located in the state’s Pilbara area, was originally intended to build 15 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity, which would later be increased to 26 GW and used to export green hydrogen and ammonia.

The government granted the project fast-track permission in September, highlighting the project’s promise of jobs, clean energy for local industries, and large-scale export opportunities. AREH is being developed by InterContinental Energy, a privately held company, CWP Energy Asia, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, and a Macquarie Group fund.

The environment minister justified the rejection decision by citing the expansion plan. The project’s first design was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in December.

The projected expansion included an ammonia port, a village with 8,000 residents, including project workers, additional solar arrays, ammonia, hydrogen, and desalination plants and storage facilities, and a pipeline route through wetlands for delivering ammonia, seawater, and brine.

“We are now working to understand the minister’s concerns, and will engage further with the minister and her department as we continue to work on the detailed design and engineering aspects of the project,” the AREH consortium said.

“If the government is to be taken seriously on developing a hydrogen economy, companies prioritising genuinely zero emissions projects should be assisted to reach a final investment decision,” said Dan Gocher, climate and environment director at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

Nedim Husomanovic

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