Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) has advised ACEN Renewables (ACEN) on its historic partnership arrangement with Yindjibarndi Traditional Owners to develop, own and operate large-scale renewable energy projects of up to 3GW in capacity in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

ACEN and Yiyangu (a company established by the registered native title body corporate Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and 100% owned by the Yindjibarndi people) formalised their partnership and development platform earlier this month by constituting Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation (YEC).

The transaction represents one of the largest Indigenous-led renewable energy initiatives in Australia, with the first stage representing an investment of more than $1 billion that would generate more than 750MW solar, wind and battery storage within the next few years.

YEC will see the Yindjibarndi people and ACEN work collaboratively to develop wind, solar, and renewable energy storage projects on Yindjibarndi Ngurra (country) – an area covering approximately 13,000km2 within the Yindjibarndi Native Title Determination Areas, and an area of ongoing cultural, spiritual and environmental significance.

G+T advised ACEN on all aspects of the transaction including the native title, indigenous land use and land tenure arrangements, development, asset and project management arrangements as well as the corporate and joint venture components.

The partnership agreement between ACEN and Yiyangu include principles ensuring Yindjibarndi approval of all proposed project sites on Yindjibarndi Ngurra, Yindjibarndi equity participation of 25% - 50% in all projects, preferred contracting for Yindjibarndi-owned businesses, and training and employment opportunities for Yindjibarndi people.

The G+T team was led by partners Nick Lazarou (Real Estate + Projects),Marshall McKenna (Native Title) and David Josselsohn (Corporate Advisory), with support from Karla Lauder (Lawyer, Real Estate and Projects), Maria Eger (Special Counsel, Corporate Advisory), Lauren Shave (Special Counsel, Native Title) and Ziggy Liszukiewicz (Lawyer, Corporate Advisory).

Nick Lazarou said: “We congratulate ACEN and the Yindjibarndi Traditional Owners on formalising this historic and ground-breaking partnership, establishing a leading model and example of meaningful economic partnerships with traditional owners in Australia. Our cross-disciplined team was privileged and grateful to have the opportunity to advise and continue to support ACEN on this transformative deal.

We are excited to see the partnership flourish and deliver sustainable and meaningful outcomes to the Yindjibarndi, whilst accelerating Australia’s renewable energy transition”.

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