'Speed essential' for clean energy grants review

17th Sep 2012

A recent decision to put renewable energy grants on hold has drawn the ire of many industry experts – and now the Australian Industry Group is throwing in its two cents, claiming the government should perform any reviews as quickly as possible.

Commercialisation Australia admitted earlier this week that it was pausing funding for a range of initiatives as part of a spending evaluation, including the popular Clean Technology Investment Program.

Nigel Morris from Solar Business Services has described it as a "knee-jerk" reaction that will be "damaging" to companies, but the Australian Industry Group has taken a more measured approach.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of the organisation Innes Willox told ABC News: "Any pause in a program that is only ten weeks old is concerning, particularly when it was established to assist industries to offset the impact of the carbon tax and the impact that would have."

He noted that there is "significant support" for the initiative among businesses, with 15 per cent of firms his agency polled claiming to have already applied for grants.

A further 55 per cent are in the process of doing so or intend to begin collecting the information and data required to gain funding, the CEO added.

"So there's enormous interest out there among industry, they see it as a great support mechanism at this time, as they adjust to a new carbon tax regime and so it's important that the program continue," he explained.

The Clean Technology Investment Program offers a variety of finance avenues for enterprises hoping to make their operations more energy efficient.

This can include having an energy audit conducted to assess current sustainability, as well as help and advice on how to install new environmentally friendly equipment.

It is becoming increasingly useful for large scale manufacturers, Innes stated, such as foundries and food processing units.

This is why it is important the government completes the review as quickly as possible to ensure it does not affect the country's ongoing energy targets, he added.

ABC News journalist Simon Lauder questioned Willox on whether the low take-up of the scheme was a problem, but the CEO quickly brushed off any concerns that the government may decide to scrap it based on such figures.

"It's very early days, Simon," he said. "I think the government will hopefully recognise that."

A spokesperson for climate change minister Greg Combet claimed the pause in funding was a natural part of the budget process, with many grants under consideration.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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