In a remarkably short-sighted and catastrophic move for the Australian renewable energy industry, the country’s government has reached a cross-bench agreement with the opposition party to strip $500 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Rumors and promises of cutting funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have been circulating for months now, following three years of anti-environmental and clean energy policy from Australia’s leading Liberal Party. Numerous experts have warned what such a cut to funding would do to Australia’s clean energy industry, with the latest warning being provided by a group of big-name global clean energy leaders, who penned an open letter to the government earlier this month. “Investment confidence would be again undermined if one of the first moves of the new parliament is to cut funding to Australia’s key clean energy agency. This would damage Australia’s reputation and unsettle investors, again,” says the letter.
“Clean energy is one of Australia’s best opportunities for jobs, growth and innovation. ARENA’s ability to deliver new grant programs is at risk with legislation before the Australian Parliament that would substantially cut its future funding. While we respect the fiscal challenges facing the government and the nation, we believe that cutting ARENA’s budget would be short-sighted.”
This warning was exemplified by news that ARENA had approved twelve large-scale solar PV projects to receive funding as part of its multi-million dollar large-scale solar funding round — a series of funding which will now likely be a distant memory.
Australia’s Coalition Government has reached an agreement with the country’s Opposition Labor Party to strip $500 million as part of the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016. This should come as no real surprise given the lackluster, and at times entirely gutless, clean energy policies both major parties in Australia have envisioned, but considering that it was the Labor Party which had originally created ARENA, it simply rubs salt into an already open wound.
The move will leave ARENA with almost half of its original funding allocation to support the growth of clean energy technologies in Australia, with the two major parties set to meet soon to determine which technologies will receive funding priority.
Unsurprisingly, the move has been received with bafflement, confusion, and outright hostility by the Australian renewable energy industry, and political opponents.
“A cut to ARENA’s funding is a move at odds with the Federal Government’s innovation agenda and is a disappointing change in the ALP’s position,” said Kane Thornton, Chief Executive of Australia’s Clean Energy Council — which itself has had to fight to be scrapped by the Coalition Government. “While we recognise the budget constraints facing the nation, clean energy innovation is a crucial lever to transition the Australian economy and create investment and employment opportunities for the future.”
“While the $800 million that Labor has proposed to leave in ARENA’s future budget would allow it to continue many critical functions, the extent and rate it can bring forward exciting new technologies will clearly be constrained.”
“Why punish an agency that is making a difference?” asked WWF-Australia spokesperson Kellie Caught. “Just last week ARENA’s announcement on big solar showed its worth. Every dollar ARENA is spending on these projects is expected to generate $10 in return.”
“Looks like the stitch up has well and truly been done, the dirty deal between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party to slash renewable energy funding and continue the attack on some of the most vulnerable people in the community,” said Senator Di Natale, leader of the Australian Greens. “Rather than joining with the Greens Labor has decided to back in the government’s attack on renewable energy and vulnerable Australians.
“It makes a mockery of the Turnbull government’s innovation agenda and a mockery of the Labor party’s support for clean energy.”
“Labor’s deal to cut half a billion dollars from clean energy has exposed them as clean energy charlatans,” added Greens Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change Adam Bandt. “Instead of standing up for clean energy and climate action, Labor rolled over and, at a time we are in a climate emergency, ripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of clean energy.”