As per the federal Environmental Minister, the project will have unacceptable impacts on wetlands

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Australian Environmental Minister has rejected the plan for the Asian Renewable Energy Hub project, citing environmental concerns. (Credit: seagul from Pixabay)

Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley has rejected the revised plan of the 26GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) in Western Australia on environmental grounds.

The hybrid wind, solar, and green hydrogen and ammonia project proposed to be built in the Pilbara region with an investment of AUD50bn ($36bn) was granted ‘major project status’ in October 2020 by the Australian government.

The project proponents are InterContinental Energy (ICE), CWP Global, Vestas, and Pathway Investments.

Following the amendment in their plans for the project, the consortium needed to get new environmental approvals as they opted to renewably produce ammonia for export to Asia, instead of electricity.

Originally, the plan was to transport renewable electricity to Asia through an undersea cable. In the revised plan, the consortium has proposed to focus on using up to 23GW of renewable electricity produced by the project for producing hydrogen and ammonia.

The project also includes the construction of a desalination plant.

As part of the new plans, Asian Renewable Energy Hub would need clearing land for installing wind and solar infrastructure, laying pipelines for ammonia transportation, and setting up a new town between Broome and Port Hedland to accommodate workers.

Recently, Sussan Ley declined to sign on the consortium’s new proposal, reported ABC News.

A ministerial spokesperson has been quoted by the publication, as saying: “The Minister concluded that the proposal would have unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental significance.”

As per the spokesperson, the project will have unacceptable impacts on wetlands near Eighty-mile Beach, which under the Ramsar agreement, are listed as an important site.

Furthermore, the federal Environment Minister is said to have found that the project would put at risk endangered bird species living at the wetlands.

The spokesperson has been further quoted by the publication, as saying: “The Minister found the marine component of the infrastructure corridor would disrupt tidal movement and processes, and this would seriously impact the habitats and life-cycle of the native species dependent on the wetland.”

The Asian Renewable Energy Hub consortium said that it is working to understand the concerns of the minister and will further engage with her and her department. Meanwhile, the consortium said that it will be engaged in carving out the detailed design and engineering aspects of the renewable energy project.

Clean Energy Council, a representative for the Australian clean energy industry, said that Environment Minister has turned down the expanded proposal for the project even before the completion of detailed environmental studies.

The association stated: “The Clean Energy Council is seeking urgent clarification from the Federal Minister for the Environment to address the perception that this decision is inconsistent with well-established processes or with the treatment of non-renewable projects.”