Australian Government Investing $75 Million in First Nations Microgrid Projects

Aug. 30, 2023
Eligible projects will help remove barriers to microgrid deployment and reduce or eliminate the use of diesel-powered generators.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is now accepting applications for its Regional Microgrids Program, which aims to develop and deploy microgrids in regional and remote communities.

The program earmarks $75 million Australian ($48.6 million U.S.) for First Nations microgrids, which will be dispersed as grants ranging from $AU5 million to $AU25 million, depending on complexity and scope of the project. Eligible microgrids must reduce energy costs for a First Nations community or provide it with cleaner and more reliable energy.

Empowering indigenous communities

As is the case elsewhere around the world, remote First Nations communities in Australia are largely dependent on diesel-powered generators for their electricity. But this is a costly, often unreliable solution that is also emissions-intensive.

That’s why one of the primary goals of ARENA’s program is to eliminate any remaining barriers to replacing diesel generation with more reliable, cheaper, clean energy-powered microgrids.

“Remote communities relying on fossil fuels like diesel have unique challenges in transitioning to renewables and this new funding will help overcome barriers to broader deployment of microgrid solutions,” said Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA.

Another key component of the program is the empowerment of indigenous communities to take control of their energy infrastructure. Program guidelines were developed with input from the National Indigenous Australians Agency, First Nations representatives and a variety of other stakeholders.

Those that are selected to receive grant funds will benefit from consultations with First Nations renewable energy experts and Australian state and territorial governments.

“It’s vital we make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities are able to participate in the electricity transition and share in the benefits of Australia’s renewable future,” Miller said.

Similar funding opportunities are available for First Nation communities in Canada as well as Native American tribes looking to build microgrids or other clean energy projects.

Grants also available for regional microgrid projects

In addition to the $AU75 million designated specifically for First Nations projects, the Regional Microgrids Program has an additional $AU50 million ($32.5 million U.S.) available to fund projects that advance the development or deployment of distributed energy resources technologies, or improve resilience and reliability of electricity in Australia’s regional communities. Regional communities are those that are outside the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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It is expected that these grants will range between $AU5 million and $AU10 million.

The additional $AU50 million comes from ARENA’s Regional Australia Microgrid Pilots Program, which was first announced in 2021 as a way to improve the resilience and reliability of the electricity supply in remote parts of the country.

Applications accepted on a rolling basis

Applications for the Regional Microgrids Program are now being accepted, and the program will run until December 2025 or until all funds have been distributed.

The program has a two-stage application and assessment process that includes an expression of interest and the full application. ARENA will collaborate with the applicants, providing feedback on applications.

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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