Clean energy investors unsettled by budget

The clean energy industry has acknowledged it is disappointed by the Federal Government’s move to put more than $600 million of funding for clean energy projects in jeopardy.

A total of $370 million for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was rephased into the 2013-14 federal budget, after it was established less than a year ago as an independent body to provide long-term stability to investors.

The budget also put a further $260 million of funding for energy efficiency programs and large-scale solar on the chopping block.

Clean Energy Council (CEC) deputy chief executive Kane Thornton acknowledged this was a tough budget, with an $18 billion deficit and an ambitious suite of new projects to fund. He also acknowledged investment uncertainty generated by the constant chopping and changing to funding for clean energy programs, including ARENA, was a concern.

“ARENA was set up with support from all major political parties to be at arm’s length from government, to provide much-needed investment confidence in home-grown technology development right here in Australia,” he said.

“Funding for ARENA to the tune of $370 million has been postponed until 2020, and the process to put that money back on the table is unclear.”

According to the CEC, the budget doesn’t send a good message to companies wanting to develop cutting-edge renewable energy technologies in Australia, and could lead to innovators taking their business overseas.

“It was also disappointing to see almost $260 million in funding scrapped for large-scale solar research and the Low Carbon Communities grants that were designed to improve energy efficiency for communities and vulnerable consumers and help them save on their power bills,” Mr Thornton said.

“With power prices on the rise, this budget was also an opportunity lost to provide relief to those struggling with one of life’s essentials.”

Mr Thornton welcomed the move to leave the $1.2 billion in funding for the Clean Technology Program intact; including $160 million in funding that has been brought forward to help companies become more energy efficient.