Smart Energy Council may sue government over ARENA changes

Angus Taylor (Smart Energy Council)

The Smart Energy Council has declared it may sue the federal government for its controversial revisions to Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) that will expand the renewable energy agency’s remit to fossil fuel projects.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s second attempt to include fossil-fuel related technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) in ARENA’s scope survived a tied vote in the Senate. This follows the government’s attempt to scrap ARENA completely in 2014 and $500 million in funding cuts two years later.

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While APPEA and CO2CRC praised the news, former ARENA chair and Climate Councillor Greg Bourne slammed the decision, saying: “The Federal Government’s latest move has sullied ARENA by allowing it to invest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as well as hydrogen made with gas. This retrograde step will prop up fossil fuels using taxpayer money.”

“The nation’s renewable energy agency should not be spending money earmarked for renewables on CCS technology. If any investment is made, it should be paid for by the fossil fuel industry. CCS is expensive, unlikely to be effective, and the industry has always over-promised and under-delivered. 

“Gas is also a fossil fuel that powerfully drives climate change, and hydrogen from gas has no place in Australia’s zero emissions energy future. Only hydrogen made with renewable energy is worth investing in, as customers demand ‘green hydrogen’ in a decarbonising global economy. 

“From renewables to battery storage to energy efficiency, we already have the technological solutions to reduce emissions. The government should be accelerating efforts to scale up and improve these climate solutions, creating jobs and economic opportunities in the process,” he added. 

Smart Energy Council (SEC) chief executive John Grimes went a step further, telling APP the SEC may sue the Morrison government for “this blatant attempt to subvert the energy transition and prolong the obsolescence of fossil fuels”. 

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“Our sector is now at the point where if you just roll over on these things it’s just never ending,”Grimes said.

“This has been an ideological attack from the outset and you’ve just got to call it for what it is. It contravenes the Act; the Act is really clear about the definition of renewable energy. We are absolutely right now talking to legal representatives and our intention is if it has a good prospect of success we would launch legal action.”