What’s Turnbull and Hunt up to on renewable energy financing?

hunt and turnbull

Malcom & Greg rip millions from renewables research whilst claiming the opposite. Sigh.

The government’s re-shaping of renewable energy financing during the week has drawn quite a few responses in the media. Some applaud the allocation of $1 billion for renewables, however most of them have accused the PM and the Minister of the Environment Greg Hunt of duplicity and blatant vote-buying in an election year.

“…we are establishing a new $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund and what that is going to do is every year invest $100 million in the smartest, most cutting-edge Australian clean energy technologies…” said our prolix PM at the joint press conference.

“This challenge of global warming, this challenge of climate change, we will beat – we’ll beat that but we’ll beat that by being really smart, by being technically, technologically, scientifically sophisticated and innovative,” he added with the Hon. Greg Hunt, the smiling face of the renewables trashing of the Abbott years, standing next to him. Hunt, up until a couple of days before had said his government’s policy was to abolish both ARENA and the CEFC.

When the PM threw to Gregory, the reborn Minister for the Environment was (of course) all smiles.

“I’m delighted with this announcement today. There are really two fundamental parts – one is the retention and repurposing of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. That is an important sign, an important symbol and an important practical step in terms of adding to our action on climate change and then the second thing is the creation of, as the Prime Minister says, a billion-dollar Clean Energy Innovation Fund,” he said.

The term “sleight of hand” was bandied about and the tone of many editorials ranged from an eyebrow-raising questioning to downright snarky. Here’s a couple of examples:

After congratulating the government on the retention of the CEFC, renewables commentator Giles Parkinson accused the prime minister of performing a “ruse” on the Australian people.

“…the move to de-fund ARENA and create a “new” fund using money already allocated to the CEFC is nothing but a sleight of hand, and an elaborate ruse by Turnbull to save more than a $1.3 billion and get his new pet-word “innovation” included in a financing scheme,” he said.

Even the response from Tony Wood, the Program Director for Energy at the Grattan Institute and former general manager of Origin Energy, exuded suspicion at the announcement.

“…it remains to be seen whether today’s announcement becomes a sound use of public funding to drive innovation in low-emission technologies through addressing real market failures, or whether the need to save money will lead to an ugly combination of lost opportunity and wasted money.”

The staying of execution of ARENA and the CEFC must be seen in the wider context of the election year claims Mike Seccombe of the Saturday Paper. The government has 12 trigger possibilities for a double dissolution where the Senate has twice failed to pass government legislation. The Abbott-era act to abolish the CEFC was twice rejected in the Senate, giving the government a ready-made excuse to go to the polls. However Mr Turnbull has chosen the issue of industrial relations over the environment. Why?

The truth is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been highly effective in doing the job it had been set up to do: attract investment for renewable energy schemes. With $1.4 billion invested in the sector at a 6.1 percent rate of return, any policy to abolish the corporation was nonsensical at best. This success is well understood by the electorate — a key fact in an election year — and a double dissolution election based on the rejection of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation would be inviting electoral disaster for the Turnbull team.

“Don’t trust them” was also the general response on the SolarQuotes Facebook news feed. Most of our contributors echoed the view that real innovation in renewables was required to lead us into the future, not grubby political deals. So should the government’s word be accepted on renewable energy financing? We’ll leave the last word to “a journalist” at the presser.

“Mr Hunt, you have repeatedly trashed the CEFC in the past, … and now you’re saying you’re delighted they’re retaining it. Which Mr Hunt do we have to believe?”

Which indeed?


  1. They had no option other than to announce financing. The Senate failed to approve legislation to abolish ARENA and the CEFC. Both of which have been rorted at various time for billions of dollars. Turning to innovation programs gives the industry an opportunity to step up with genuine and original technologies, rather than the scams and subsidies which existed before.

    There will be people who respond to that comment with denigration, but Australians have to realise that the taxpayer does not have a bottomless pit of cash to splash about. Something that the previous government failed to realise.

  2. dave cadwell says

    FYI, I “attended” an Enphase webinar last week . Topic was the new storage battery that will be released in Q4 in Au. Any thoughts on this? dave

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