Planned funding cuts to Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

One of the first actions of the new Australian Parliament last week was the introduction of the Omnibus Bill; a suite of policy measures aiming to save $6 billion. One of the savings measures is to strip the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of $1.3 billion of its funding. NQCC doesn’t think that this is a good idea. Let us explain why…

What is ARENA and why is it important?

ARENA was established in 2012 and is an independent, commercially oriented Commonwealth agency. It’s two objectives are to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Along with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, it is a key institution implementing our movement away from fossil fuels and towards the renewable future.

As this article in The Conversation explains, ARENA has driven most of Australia’s innovative renewable energy projects – with 60 completed to date and more than 200 in progress. ARENA provides the vital investment support a cutting-edge project needs in the pre-commercialisation stage, that would otherwise be too risky for commercial lenders. It is noteworthy that each dollar of public funding leverages $1.30 in private sector R&D funding. Grant money bridges the investment gap and reduce investment risk, which accelerates innovation to make the transition to renewable energy faster, cheaper and easier.

So, what’s the situation right now?

With the future of ARENA uncertain, some clean energy companies have already suspended projects. The Greens have been forward with their opposition to the proposed cuts, but Labor has been quiet about whether they will support or oppose it.

There has been significant media attention of the issue:

The Guardian: ‘Queensland solar projects that could create 2,600 jobs at risk in federal cuts‘ and ‘Richard Di Natale urges Bill Shorten not to back $1.3bn cut to climate agency

The Conversation: ‘Cutting ARENA would devastate clean energy research’ and ‘Dear politicians, please don’t endanger world-leading solar research by cutting ARENA‘, an open letter from the solar research community to MPs.

ABC News: ‘ARENA: Doubts in funding leads to clean energy company suspending projects’

What is NQCC doing about it?

On 30th August, I sent a letter on behalf of our NQCC members and supporters to our newly elected Member of Parliament Cathy O’Toole. We asked Ms O’Toole and the Australian Labor Party to not support the cuts to ARENA. You can read the letter here. If you also feel strongly on this matter, you can share this post on social media or write a similar letter to your MP.

The matter has been referred to the Senate Economics Committee for review. NQCC has made a submission that you can read here.