2016 budget: Renewables not on the agenda

Big Stick, climate, Ai Group

Renewable energy policy was noticeably absent from Scott Morrison’s 2016 Budget.

High-income earners, defence and the ATO may have emerged victorious in the Treasurer’s speech, however, the energy sector was largely ignored.

Despite being an obvious growth sector, renewable energy – including alternative technologies and energy efficiencies – hardly got a mention. Even with Australia’s Paris commitments on emissions reductions, one of the only significant initiatives in the Budget was a negative – a cut of $1 billion in the funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and ARENA are safe, but they will refocus their activities towards the government’s innovation agenda.

The CEFC will be responsible for allocating $1 billion in existing funding across 10 years to establish a Clean Energy Innovation Fund. The fund will provide money to assist emerging clean energy technology become commercially viable. It will be jointly managed by ARENA, which will also continue to manage its existing portfolio through the new fund.

Solar Citizens national director Claire O’Rourke said the cuts to ARENA are “a reckless, foolish and short-sighted move”.

“What we heard last night was Treasurer Morrison talking about jobs and growth – if jobs were really the target, they need look no further than the renewable energy sector,” she said.

Mr Morrison said the 2016 Budget is the Turnbull Government’s economic plan to ensure Australia successfully transitions from the mining investment boom to a more diversified economy.

However, Ms O’Rourke said the global investment boom in renewable energy is gaining momentum, and Australia now runs the risk of being left behind.

“Now is the time we should be heavily investing in renewable energy research, not cutting ARENA,” she said.

“It is hard to reconcile the budgetary decisions being made by the Federal Government and what we are seeing in the real world, here in Australia and right across the globe.”

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) also expressed its disappointment with the Budget, saying it won’t help Australia reach its international commitments for emissions reductions.

“As well as driving productivity and economic growth, our cities also provide significant opportunities for reducing carbon emissions. The built enviromment represents significant opportunities for emissions reductions at relatively low cost, but there are no new incentives or support for the property and construction industry, or any other industry for that matter, to make the most of these opportunities,” GBCA CEO Romilly Madew said.

The Budget did spell good news for the resources sector, however, delivering a $100 million boost to Geoscience Australia for mapping mineral, energy and groundwater potential in northern Australia and South Australia.

This funding is on top of the $1.1 billion of initiatives outlined in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.