ARENA’s New Funding: Reactions

ARENA funding

The Morrison Government yesterday announced new long term funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – and an expanded focus that includes dabbling in fossil fuels.

The Agency was established under a Labor Government back in 2011 with support from the Liberal-National Opposition. Its stated purpose is to:

“improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy through innovation that benefits Australian consumers and businesses.”

(emphasis mine)

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for ARENA, with Tony Abbott taking a crack at axing it; but in more recent years the Government has been keen to bathe in the agency’s successes. ARENA has supported 543 projects with $1.58 billion of funding that has leveraged nearly $5 billion in additional private and public sector investment.

But the future of ARENA became uncertain again early this year after it started running low on cash.

ARENA’s coffers could be filled again after Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor announced a total funding package of $1.62 billion; including guaranteed baseline funding of $1.43 billion over the next ten years.

As for the “expanded focus” bit, it includes support for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS); which has up until now been off-limits for the Agency. Carbon Capture and Storage is the process of capturing carbon dioxide at the point where it is generated, such as at a coal-fired power station, and transporting it to a site where it will be stored – usually underground – for (hopefully)  a very, very long time.

Aside from the viability of CCS being a topic of some debate, it acts to prop up continued fossil fuel use; although incorporating CCS adds significantly to the cost of electricity generation.

This isn’t a done deal – it still requires parliamentary approval.

Here’s a selection of some reactions to the news.

ARENA: Yay!

It’s never wise to bite the hand that feeds – particularly when you’re starving – and no doubt the good folks of ARENA are feeling a little more positive about their future.

“We are delighted to see ARENA’s important role acknowledged with new funding, and we welcome a new era for ARENA,” said CEO Darren Miller. “There is still much work to be done but with an experienced team, industry knowledge and strong networks across a range of technologies and sectors, ARENA is well positioned to support Australia’s energy transformation and emissions reduction goals.”

Clean Energy Council: Great, But..

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the commitment will ensure continued support for renewables research.

“While expanding ARENA’s mandate to include carbon capture and storage is a disappointing distraction, the vast majority of this new funding is consistent with the energy industry and investors’ strong commitment to renewable energy and energy storage,” stated Mr. Thornton.

Climate Council: An Act Of Vandalism

Climate Council Senior Researcher Tim Baxter tackled the expanded focus head-on, stating supporting technologies such as carbon capture and storage is aimed at prolonging the life of the fossil fuel industry

“Wind and solar are the cheapest, most effective ways to reduce emissions. We need ARENA to invest in what we know works, not wasting taxpayers’ money on risky, polluting projects.”

ACF: Angus’s Fossil Fuel Obsession

The Australian Conservation Foundation wasn’t particularly thrilled either, stating while there were some good elements in the announcement, it also appeared to be an extension of Minister Angus Taylor’s obsession with fossil fuels. The organisation noted CCS has already received $1.3 billion in taxpayer support with “almost no” commercial successes.

“The $1.4 billion for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency over the next decade represents a funding cut, based on the agency’s historical funding, while expanding its work to invest in dirty technologies,” said ACF’s climate program manager Gavan McFadzean.

Solar Citizens: Undermining ARENA’s Mission

While welcoming the ARENA lifeline, Solar Citizens condemned the mandate change allowing ARENA to fund fossil fuels.

“Today’s announcement to allow ARENA to invest in fossil fuel technologies fits with Morrison’s commitment to locking Australia into expensive, polluting gas,” said National Director, Ellen Roberts.

The funding announcement came two days after the Federal Government threatened to build a gas power plant if there was no service life extension or like-for-like replacement of the clapped-out coal-fired clunker, Liddell Power Station.

On a related note, earlier this week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) called for a greener recovery amongst its member countries – which includes Australia. The Organisation expressed concern over the level of “non-green” stimulus spending it was seeing, such as fossil fuel investments.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. It is the feral parliament.

    Fraud and embezzlement.

    The major activities of the institution (apart from causing as much harm as possible, especially to Australia).

    Nothing changes.

    The frauds increase, the embezzlements increase.

    And, it is all symbolised by the designed shape of the building – a closed fist, with the middle finger pointing upward.

  2. “Carbon Capture and Storage is the process of capturing carbon dioxide at the point where it is generated, such as at a coal-fired power station, and transporting it to a site where it will be stored – usually underground – for (hopefully) a very, very long time.”

    I’m wondering whether any pollie supporting CCS is willing to have a CCS reservoir site near them or their families.

    Associated CCS reservoir risks:

    “… included both local environmental risks (CO2 in the atmosphere or shallow subsurface; CO2 dissolved in subsurface fluids; and geological displacement) and the risk to the global environment, should project leaks re-emit stored CO2 to the atmosphere. More recently Koornneef et al. (2012), Bowden et al. (2013b) and Pawar et al. (2015) expanded the spectrum of environmental risks for the natural environment: CO2, brine or process contaminants can affect air, soil and groundwater quality. Bowden et al. (2013a), in their list of biosphere risks, extended this further to include wildlife, prairie, recreation and industry assets related to air, soil and water issues. Jones et al. (2015) reviewed research and experience regarding the potential impacts of CO2 leakage on potable water resources and ecosystems.”
    See: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/40127/1/2019%20LARKIN%20et%20al_Risk%20management%20of%20CCS_expert%20elicitation.pdf

    Does Australia have suitable and sufficient CCS reservoir sites? The CSIRO says:

    “More research is needed to identify and expand our knowledge on which geological formations are most suitable for permanent storage and how we go about effectively monitoring CO2 movement – both deep underground and in the marine environment.”
    See: https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/EF/Areas/Renewable-and-low-emission-tech/Carbon-capture-storage/Storage

    CCS is another example of predatory delay. Predatory delay destroys prosperity and threatens our survival.
    See: https://johnmenadue.com/ian-dunlop-climate-policy-predatory-delay-destroys-prosperity-threatens-survival/

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