Australia’s $1 Billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund


Turnbull clean energy fund solarThe Federal Government is starting up a $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund which it says will support the development of renewable energy technology.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) will reportedly invest up to $100 million per year over ten years in emerging technologies. The CEIF will be run jointly by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). According to Kane Thornton,  Clean Energy Council chief executive,  the proposal is giving with one hand while taking from the other. “So this proposal obviously keeps the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and that’s a welcome development,” he said in an ABC interview. “But essentially it is removing funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and really I guess constraining it in terms of its ability to provide capital grants to the sector into the future.”

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) had both been slated for closure by Tony Abbott and now appear to keep be kept open by his successor, Malcolm Turnbull. “We are promoting innovation and new economic opportunities, enhancing our productivity, protecting our environment and reducing emissions to tackle climate change,” said the Prime Minister.

These renewable energy developments are essential w ith coal-fired power stations under attack and closing down Australians are now looking to the sun to provide their future energy needs. Port Augusta is a classic case with their coal-fired power station closing in eight weeks, the local community have been campaigning for a large scale solar thermal plant with storage to be built there to create new clean jobs as well as on-demand clean energy.

According to Daniel Spencer from the Repower Port Augusta Campaign, the proposed facility would cost $100 million but its long-term benefits would make it well worth it. “A project like this would create a thousand jobs during construction and 50 well paying permanent jobs that are ongoing. It would also be the first of its kind here in Australia. So there’s all the run-off impact, the tourism benefits and also the opportunity for South Australia to create a manufacturing supply chain to help create more of these plants built in Australia.” It is this type of ambitious project that could benefit from the Government’s new Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

As far as governance of the new Fund, the terms of all appointed board members of Arena have now expired and they have not been replaced, leaving it governed by the secretary of the Department of the Environment. The environment minister, Greg Hunt, has said the new Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation, will be inside the Department of the Environment, “will bring a fresh focus to the role of innovation in supporting emerging renewable and low-emissions technologies that will drive down emissions”.

Turnbull clean energy fundHere at SAE, we believe that this signals a positive change for the Solar and Renewable energy sector. It brings a sense of stability for now and means that companies like us can focus on doing what we do best, helping Australians save money through renewable energy.

To further cement this, at a joint press conference with Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt yesterday, Prime Minister Turnbull also announced Coalition policy hostility towards the CEFC and ARENA was over. “What we’re announcing today is that we are retaining the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, we’re attaining both of those agencies,” said PM Turnbull. “This will be investing in storage, in new battery technology, in smart grids, in some of the exciting solar visions that people have hoped for and imagined for Australia but which are only now really becoming reality.”

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