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Renewable energy funding on the brink

30th May 2013

With the latest budget's proposed funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), those with interests in the solar power industry are feeling a little nervous over the future of our renewable energy after some recent announcements.

The cuts to ARENA would mean that $159 million from the Education Investment Fund would be returned to the budget, and that $370 million would be deferred until after 2020.

Solar power projects are particularly at risk, as while ARENA supports a number of different types of renewable energy projects, solar power makes up a large portion of its work with research, development, demonstration and commercialisation.

ARENA has released its Draft Funding Strategy for 2013-14, which the Australian Solar Council responded to in a statement on May 28.

The organisation stated its support for ARENA, and that it is pleased with the majority of their funding plans and welcomes a number of the new proposed initiatives.

However, the Australian Solar Council also stated its concern for renewable energy's future in light of the uncertainty around budgets, potential cuts and what this may mean for Australia's renewable energy landscape.

As there is a looming threat of an abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Clean Technology Innovation Program, as well as a potential reduction in Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20 per cent renewables by 2020, the Australian Solar Council believes the next 12 months could signal some big changes.

These changes may force ARENA to reconsider its budget strategy in the near future rendering the current budget proposal as somewhat redundant.

The Australian Solar Council states its enthusiasm for the Regional Renewables Program, which aims to demonstrate the viability of renewable energy in regional and remote locations.

It believes that this could unlock new projects in mining communities, edge-of-grid and off-grid regions - areas with great potential for solar power. This program is a hopeful one in the midst of other lingering uncertainties and potential reductions in funding and projects.

Australians have a lot at stake with these kind of budgeting decisions, and as a nation as a whole we can only benefit from increased levels of renewable energy technology, projects and programs in order to create a truly sustainable environment, economy and quality life. It really is that simple.

Posted by Bob Dawson

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