Australia cuts renewables agency funding

Australia’s government is set to slash funding for the nation’s renewable energy agency (ARENA) by AUD500m ($375m) after a compromise deal on the matter was reached this week.

The agency’s entire AUD1.3bn budget was initially due for the chop as part of a wider AUD6bn package of cost-cutting measures, but this amount was reduced in a bid by the coalition government to secure support for the move from the opposition Labour party.

ARENA was established in 2012 with a mission to grow the nation’s renewable power capacity and reduce the costs of renewable technologies. It has been under threat since March, when the government proposed replacing it with a new clean energy innovation fund.

Earlier this month the nation’s Clean Energy Council (CEC) published an open letter to the government arguing against the cuts. Chief executive Kane Thornton said in the letter that “while we understand the government is looking for savings, slashing grant funding for renewable energy massively undermines the industry’s efforts to meet our national emissions reduction targets, as well as the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) and beyond.

“ARENA is an investment by Australia in Australian technology, and it is helping us to catch up in the global race toward clean energy and energy innovation.”

The letter’s 190 signatories included global firms such as ABB, Canadian Solar, Conergy, Gamesa, Goldwind, GE, Vestas and Tesla.

Among ARENA’s recent projects are an August grant of AUD1.47m to support a 10.8 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant developed by Conergy and featuring 1.4 MW/5.3 MWh of lithium-ion battery energy storage, and a solar auction this month which awarded 12 utility-scale solar PV projects across the country, a move which will increase the nation’s installed solar capacity from its current 240 MW to 720 MW.

 

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