ARENA aims to further reduce cost of solar through new investment plan

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The 50MW Kidston Solar Project in the north of Queensland. Image: Genex Power.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will support projects that further lower the cost of renewable generation as part of a new investment strategy aimed at underpinning the transition to net zero emissions.

ARENA funding will be used for projects that optimise the electricity transition – including energy storage, large-scale grid integration and flexible demand – through an expanded mandate that will also see the agency back the commercialisation of ‘clean’ hydrogen for both domestic and export applications.

“We need to utilise Australia’s abundant sun and wind resources to produce, use and supply renewable energy,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “We need to optimise this transition through energy storage, large-scale grid integration, flexible demand and further reducing the cost of solar and wind.”

Miller said the new priorities take into account the key technologies and sectors where Australia can benefit in the shift to net zero emissions.

ARENA’s expanded mandate will also see it support low-emissions aluminium and steel production and explore opportunities to scale up carbon capture and storage (CSS).

The investment plan is in line with the Australian government’s Low Emission Technology Roadmap, which was launched last year and is prioritising five areas – including hydrogen production, long-duration energy storage and CSS.

While that roadmap will see the country invest more than AU$18 billion (US$12.91 billion) in low emissions technologies over the next decade, the plan did not commit to a net zero emissions target by 2050.

Since the roadmap was launched, ARENA has since secured an AU$1.62 billion funding package from the government as part of the agency’s broadened mandate to explore the development of technologies such as energy storage and hydrogen.

“We are at the beginning of a critical decade for Australia and the world as we make the investments required to reduce emissions in line with international commitments. To get to net zero, we need to invest today in the technologies that are going to transform our energy system and our economy in the years to come,” Miller said.

Since its foundation in 2012, ARENA has provided AU$1.77 billion in funding to more than 600 renewable energy projects. Earlier this year, it selected three green hydrogen projects that will share in AU$103 million to support their development.

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