Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for the chopping block, hints Matthias Corman

Corman,-Matthias-monsterAxing of renewable energy agency would add to broken promises, clean energy industry says, May 12, 2014 – The Abbott government is planning to abolish the primary agency supporting clean energy in Australia.  The planned axing of the primary agency supporting clean energy in Australia by the Abbott government would break pre-election commitments and send investment in emerging technologies off-shore, an industry group says.

Fairfax Media is among outlets reporting on Monday that the federal government will axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in Tuesday’s budget as part of efforts to curb spending.

ARENA, whose budget had been previously cut to $2.5 billion to 2022, would reportedly be left with about $1 billion to complete projects already backed. The agency, established through the combination of other bodies in July 2012, aims to increase the supply and competitiveness of renewable energy such as large-scale solar photovoltaic plants and other emerging technologies.

What’s disappointing here is that the Coalition really went out of its way prior to the election to restate their commitment to ARENA,” said Kane Thornton, deputy chief executive of the Clean Energy Council.

The Abbott government also backed the Renewable Energy Target (RET) before the September election, saying it would support the existing goal of supplying 41,000 gigawatt-hours of clean energy, such as from wind farms and hydropower, by 2020. It has since set up a review of the target led by businessman and climate change sceptic, Dick Warburton, which the renewable energy industry fears will dilute or delay the RET goal.

Axing the agency “would send concerning signals to the renewable energy sector broadly but also to investors around the world who are making investments under ARENA, and are watching closely the outcome of the RET review”, Mr Thornton said.

On ABC’s Radio National on Monday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said “too many agencies” were responsible for similar functions and needed to be cut back.

“This is about making government as efficient and effective as possible,” Senator Cormann said.

Support for emerging renewable energy technologies, which include geo-thermal and marine power, should be seen in the context that all other major forms of energy had got their start with backing from governments, Mr Thornton said.

“The very first coal-fired power stations, the first gas and the first nuclear power stations were all supported by the government, and wouldn’t have happened without government help,” he said.

Among the projects getting ARENA support was AGL’s 155 megawatt-capacity solar photovoltaic power plants at Nyngan and near Broken Hill in NSW. ARENA and the NSW government supplied $166.7 million and $64.9 million, respectively, with AGL supplying the remainder of about $208 million, according to the agency.

“That wouldn’t have happened without the support of ARENA,” Mr Thornton said.

“A lot of large-scale solar companies will really question why they are still operating in Australia, and will really focus their efforts on other parts of the world,” he said.



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