ARENA needs AU$460m federal funding lifeline, says Australia Institute

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The aftermath of a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia. Credit: Tatters, Flickr

Think tank the Australia Institute has urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s federal government to carve out fresh funding for the Australia Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in its 2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets.

The agency has no funding beyond 2021-22 and will not be able to sponsor new clean energy projects from August 2020 onwards, the Canberra-based group warned in a pre-budget submission paper on Tuesday.

Funding of AU$230 million (US$155 million) for the two financial years would sustain ARENA and its projects while a longer-term funding plan is devised, according to the Australia Institute.

ARENA has invested AU$1.44 billion (US$970 million) in 478 projects since it was established in 2011 by a Labor government. Those projects have yielded a total value of AU$5.49 billion (US$3.70 billion).

Solar PV has benefited from the largest chunk of grants, at AU$654 million (US$441 million), or 46% of total investment.

The think tank's report notes that investments in solar PV “have driven deployment innovation in large-scale solar farms, reduced costs in Australia and also gone to ‘pure’ R&D designed to improve the efficiency of PV cells, which has global benefits.”

The act that brought ARENA into existence set out an allocation of AU$2.5 billion (US$1.7 billion) in funding until 2020, but funding was slashed by Liberal-led governments in 2014 and 2016.

“While a 10-year funding commitment of at least $2.5 billion is ultimately needed to guarantee the long-term future of ARENA, a two-year fully funded extension for the agency will keep clean energy innovation in Australia thriving in the short-term,” Dan Cass, energy policy and regulatory lead at The Australia Institute said in a statement.

“Australia needs ARENA, if we are to do our fair share of global emissions reductions,” he added.

The full report, Fighting for the ARENA, is available here.

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