Claims the underwriting new investment program without legal grounds

Zali Steggall, UNGI, underwriting

The Australia Institute has revealed the auditor general has been asked to investigate the Morrison Government’s Underwriting New Generation Investment Program (UNGI), which it says has no legal foundation.

The progressive think tank says the program threatens to undermine investment in the essential power sector as in addition to having ‘no legal foundation’, the Aus Institute says it has no formal guidelines, assessment criteria, procurement process or clear implementation plan.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy program director Rickie Merzian said, “the captain’s call to offer government support to a dozen power projects was undertaken with no transparency, guidelines or legal foundation”.

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“It is worrying that despite years of problems with this underwriting program, in the last few months the Federal Government has powered on, undertaking ‘advanced negotiations’ with project proponents and signed an MOU assuring the NSW Government of its allocation of three projects,” Mr Merzian said.

“Contrary to the Energy Minister’s claim, the program’s criteria were not finalised in December 2018. The December 2018 documentation makes clear it lists only “indicative” criteria that would not be used without further program development, of which there is still no evidence.

“The program is so opaque even the agency appointed to deliver it, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, appears unclear as to its role and, in one instance, unable to deliver on a promised project being a NSW coal fired power station upgrade.”

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As a response, Independent MP Zali Steggal has asked the auditor general to investigate “as a matter of priority”.

The UNGI program was introduced in late 2018 after the government abandoned Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee.

The projects that have been shortlisted in the UNGI program include six pumped hydro plants, five gas generators and an upgrade to Vales Point coal-fired power plant.