The future of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) must be secured in the next federal budget to ensure it can continue to drive the innovation needed to support Australia’s transition to a renewable energy superpower, the Clean Energy Council said.
The agency’s funding is expected to be exhausted by the end of 2020, before its scheduled wind-up in 2022.
CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said ARENA had played an enormous role in demonstrating and proving the suite of clean energy technologies that will enable Australia to replace its ageing coal-fired power fleet.
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“A big technology vision requires a strong innovation capability. We have seen first-hand the incredible impact ARENA had on large-scale solar by supporting the industry in its infancy and accelerating the cost reductions in these major capital investments,” he said.
“That investment by the Australian Government is now paying off handsomely, with large-scale solar delivering the lowest cost electricity of any energy source in the country.”
“ARENA has also played a pivotal role in showcasing the capability of large-scale battery storage, supporting research and development in world leading technology, enabling the integration of renewables into the electricity grid, and now in accelerating the development of a competitive clean hydrogen sector.
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“ARENA is essential to building Australia’s innovation advantage, together with CSIRO and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and its role should only continue to grow with the Government’s increasing focus on technologies to drive emissions reductions.
“We are calling on the Government to extend the life of ARENA for at least another decade, and to equip the agency with at least $2 billion over that time to ensure it can continue its work in accelerating the clean energy transition.”
The CEC said ARENA has a $70 million renewable hydrogen funding program underway, but without further funding, all this investment will come to a grinding halt as the agency begins to ramp down ahead of its 2022 end date.