UPDATED 2.20PM with new information on uncontracted funding.
In unveiling legislation to repeal the emissions cap and trade scheme, the Coalition has slipped in amendments that would slash the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s funding by more than half over the forward estimates between 2014-15 to 2016-17. It should be noted that this would not involve deferment of funding into future years (as occurred under the prior government’s May budget) but instead a permanent cut.
The May budget set out funding of $776.2 million between 2014-15 to 2016-17 for ARENA, after deferring $370 million out beyond the forward estimates. The amendments put forward by the Coalition to the ARENA Act propose to follow through on this deferment, but in addition permanently cut the funding allocated under this Act by $434.9 million.
Labor’s Mark Butler claims this means ARENA has no money free to allocate to funding new projects, with their remaining funding locked-up in existing projects such as AGL’s large-scale solar projects in NSW. An ARENA spokesperson however has informed Climate Spectator that there is still around $200 million available in uncontracted funding over the forward estimates.
Either way this represents a gutting of ARENA's programs, leaving it to run its current programs with a third of the money it had originally had available to support new projects. $50m per annum is like a drop in the ocean in the energy game and ARENA will struggle to make a meaningful difference to development of renewable energy technology and skills in this country.
In the lead-up to the election Hunt repeatedly reassured stakeholders and this publication that the Coalition “fully supports ARENA”.
Cutting the funding available to support new projects by two-thirds seems hard to reconcile with such a statement.
EDITOR'S NOTE: When this article was originally published the government was yet to provide information about the level of uncommitted funding ARENA still retained over the forward estimates.