ARENA’s existence hangs by a thread

wind farm and solar panels and a thread being cut

Large scale renewables hanging by a thread thanks to Joe Hockey’s cuts.

Well we knew it was going to be a horror budget didn’t we readers? At least you couldn’t accuse the Abbott administration of not warning us. For weeks we had the drumbeat of fear. The chant that the so-called “age of entitlements” was at an end (except for certain vested interests it seems). The latest “Sloppy” Joe updates leaked to the Murdoch press and (of course) the draconian views of the Audit Commission. So we knew that the story for renewable energy Australia would be bad in the 2014 budget, the question was….how bad?

On a scale of one to ten –with ten the worst case scenario, we’ve been hit with a 9.5 cyclone of spending cuts to the renewable energy Australia sector including (but not limited to) the following broken promises.

  • Gone is the grandiose “one million more solar rooftops”
  • The funds promised for the 25 solar towns project has been cut or axed altogether.
  • A host of renewable energy agencies such as ARENA to be axed

The Budget has been a triumph for the fossil fuel-powered elite and their lobby groups as their war on a clean energy future continues with great gusto. While celebrations continue in the board rooms of the land the next question can only be: Where to next for the solar narks?

Well there’s the current review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) where the board has been packed with climate change deniers (never hold an enquiry unless you know what the outcome will be as the great Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes Minister fame once advised) But the more immediate target of the slash and burn policy is the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Jubilant bean counters are saying the axing of the agency will save around $1 billion. Will it bollocks.

What the agency delivers to the economy in big overseas funding — needs to be checked.

According to the agency the removal of ARENA means putting almost $7.7 billion worth of private investment in almost certain jeopardy. Not only is ARENA seen as sending a positive message that Australia means business when it comes to renewable energy such as solar power, it is also seen as crucial in encouraging investment for home-grown Aussie projects.

Andrew Want, of VastSolar, made this point when discussing the value of ARENA in helping set up a demonstration solar thermal plant in NSW.

“Without support from ARENA for that private investment, helping absorb the risk, we would have had no option but to go offshore and try to access similar sorts of grant facilities overseas. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to develop this technology in Australia for Australian markets,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.

Tellingly for a government so committed to the bottom line on the nation’s balance sheet Mr Want adds

“Why Australia would want to send investment signals saying, ‘We are shut for business,’ is beyond me.”

This point is one that has been stressed by SolarQuotes’ Finn Peacock who has been ranting for months on why the government has felt the need to kill off a renewable energy agency that is bringing funding, jobs, expertise and international kudos. As the great rugby league coach Jack Gibson once said: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

However the fate of ARENA is not cut and dried with the Senate still needing to approve the bill to cast the agency into the sunset. As those who have followed the twists and turns of the Australian political scene in recent times know, the Abbott government does not have the numbers in the Senate.

With the cross benches including the bellicose Clive Palmer and his merry band, the pro-renewables Greens and other assorted motorists and independents, many who oppose the slash and burn renewable policies of the government, the stage is set for a battle royale over ARENA.

As the last parliament showed, Mr Abbott appears to lack the skills necessary for negotiating with independents (I’m being polite here) and already we are hearing dark threats of a double dissolution.

Is ARENA — and all vestiges of government support for renewable energy Australia — hanging by a thread? What will be the outcome of the Senate stoush? As always we’d appreciate your thoughts on this issue either here or over at our Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter Pages.


  1. Colin Spencer says

    There must be a certain segment of the solar industry that is totally reliant on public funding. Solar can stand on its own two feet these days. System costs advertised on TV are now less than a third of what I remember 10 years ago. People installing these systems over a larger number of years have become very efficient and professional. I know certain firms which are flat out selling commercial systems, small scale to massive scale. I don’t hear them complaining about subsidies. They quote, arrange lease contracts and get the job done.

    What about value adding? The guy across the road from me got a high tech system installed after I had mine done. His has monitoring, Solar to batteries, and no feed-back to mains, as far as I can tell. His system uses the mains to top up the batteries late at night on off-peak tariff, if needed.

    Innovative solar traders need to take a more positive view, and get on with selling their product on its merits and to spruik about the extra options and benefits.

  2. I think its all about capacity. when we have enough on site power storage to run a house all day and night, from overcast to bright sunshine, we are self sufficient

  3. Rich Bowden says

    Innovation and capacity. Good points Colin and Peter. Thanks for your input.

  4. Phil Drummond says

    Hi Finn
    I’m still mulling over installing solar and going over quotes.
    Could you comment on the quality of components and the pricing on the following please:
    5Kw system
    20 x “Elite Poly” ET-P660265WW/WB 265W Tier One Polycrystalline panels
    1x “SUNGROW” D/SG5KTL-D 5Kw inverter

    with split East-West array installation, meter installed etc
    ALL UP price $5179
    Local Mid Nth Coast NSW company… people involved OWN the company.
    Ta PhilD

    • Ronald Brakels says

      ET is a tier one producer and their solar panels have a 10 year product warranty, so they should definitely be reliable.

      The Sungrow inverter is more towards the budget end of the market rather than the premium end, but that doesn’t mean it can’t supply value for money.

      All up the system will cost under $1 a watt, which is definitely a competitive price.

      Since you are getting a 5 kilowatt inverter you may want to consider expanding the panel capacity up towards the maximum permitted with that sized inverter, which is 6.66 kilowatts. The extra cost may be very low. Of course, you will need space on your roof for the extra panels.

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