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ARENA to go as Abbott breaks more promises on clean energy

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tony_abbott_press-150x150It now seems inevitable that the conservative Coalition government of Tony Abbott will abandon one of its key pre-election energy promises and seek to axe the $3 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The government is making clear it will dump some 50 government agencies in the budget, and the Australian Financial Review and News Ltd, both citing government sources, said ARENA will be dissolved and its functions relocated to within the department of energy in tomorrow’s federal budget – confirming a story first broken by RenewEconomy in March in our article entitled “Abbott’s new assault on clean energy“.

This is how we reported it then:

“ARENA has already been massively defunded, and there is speculation that if its budget is further cut, as part of Joe Hockey’s first annual budget in May, then the decision may be made to re-absorb the independent, statutory body into a government department.

It used to be part of the Department of Resources and Energy, before being separated out and run by an independent board following a string of disastrous grant allocations. Such a move would cause considerable disquiet in the renewable energy sector in Australia, particularly those looking at new technologies such as hybrid systems, solar PV and solar thermal, storage, and other “enabling” technologies.”

The decision to axe ARENA, and remove most, if not all, its unallocated funds, will be the latest in a string of broken promises from the Abbott government since its election last September.

In Opposition, the Coalition insisted it was a supporter of ARENA and it was not under threat. It also pretended it would continue “bipartisan” support of the 20 per cent renewable energy target, although it was clear to most that this never meant support for the current legislated fixed target of 41,000GWh of large scale renewable energy.

The uncapped component of the small scale renewable energy scheme, which includes rooftop solar, is also under threat, as are the upfront incentives in the form of small scale certificates. And the government’s commitment to a “million solar rooftops” appears to have sunk without trace.

The Coalition has also vowed to dismantle the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, although it always made clear it would abolish what it called “Bob Brown’s green bank”. This, of course, goes along with its decision to repeal the carbon price, abolish the Climate Commission and dismantle the Climate Change Authority.

All of these acts were included on the “wish list” of policy actions of the far right Institute of Public Affairs whose acolytes now have a stranglehold over policy making, and were included in the list of recommendations from the Commission of Audit which was dominated by existing business interests. ARENA said last week the commission simply didn’t understand what ARENA was designed to do, and rejected the idea that it was duplicating other agencies.

This, of course, makes Australia world leading in the area of green energy, but not in any way to be proud.

It will be the first country to abolish a carbon price, the first country to wind back the ambitions of renewable energy targets, the first country to dump a newly formed green bank, and the first to slash funding on the sort of R&D and support for emerging technologies that was the speciality of ARENA.

The ARENA decision – like that of the CEFC – will face tough opposition in the Senate, and is likely to force the ARENA board to continue to operate in defiance of the government’s wishes until such time as legislation is changed.

ARENA originally had $3.2 billion of funds to be spent over a decade. However, the former Labor government reduced its funding, and pushed some beyond the immediate financing horizon, and it was cut further to around $2.5 billion in budget forecasts released by the newly elected Abbott government, although these cuts have yet to be enacted.

CEO Ivor Frischknecht says  181 projects that already have a funding agreement in place with ARENA will not be affected by future funding decisions. However, what is in doubt is the funding for close to 190 projects worth approximately $7.7 billion that are in the pipeline.

“We are considering funding proposals for approximately $2.4 billion for projects right across the innovation pathway, with industry investment totalling more than $5.3 billion,” he said in an emailed statement.

And where will the savings from all these cuts be targeted? Certainly not to the retirement of debt to address the confected “budget crisis”, but as Joe Hockey said over the weekend, towards the “biggest increase in road expenditure in Australian history’’ – and to Abbott’s multi-billion dollar maternity leave subsidy.

 

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  • barrie harrop

    Its seems to be clear there a core and non core promises .

  • MrMauricio

    Just a simple case of deceitful contempt of political and democratic process

  • Malcolm Scott

    Whilst we might prosecute our case with politicians and various review agencies, perhaps we should try a different tact. It seems as though we have a new ruling class triumphant in their success to deceive by what is now apparent as lies and deceit before the election and now afterwards in proposed legislation and justification. I’d hate to arouse or inflame any Godwin claims, but the comparisons are worthy of serious consideration.
    I have done my bit by writing to politicians recently about the RET review. The response by my local Liberal member of federal parliament to my letter of original content was not more than a form response, similar to so many that I have received from Liberal Cabinet Ministers.
    Perhaps instead we should partition the Governor General and the Queen to exercise their powers to prevent these actions inconsistent with pre-election commitments and commitments at the opening of the new parliament. Very serious, but we are dealing with serious matters of State. We might mock Putin, but something similar is happening here.
    Silly you might say, but what other options do we have that are more reliable in defending our nation of wealth in minerals and biodiversity, and our prosperous, secure, free and independent way of life?

  • Malcolm Scott

    Giles, I tip my hat to you. You must be exhausted in this campaign (for good)

  • mikewatson021

    Clean Energy has been under performing the market, but its stock promises large upside which makes it a good buy for now on dips. http://bit.ly/1on7YB5

  • Chris Sanderson

    There can only be one reason the Abbott Government is trying
    hard to destroy existing legislation to help Australia stop burning fossil
    fuels, which practice the rest of the world acknowledges is progressively
    disrupting the planet’s energy balance to the point where the existence of
    civilization on this planet is already under serious threat .

    And that is because
    the Abbott government’s elite ideology is to promote the business interests of
    the energy generation and fossil fuel industries, to the detriment of all
    Australians, the future of this country, as well as the rest of the planet.

    Only a weak and corrupt government, whose policies on these
    issues are controlled by the incumbents, would try to ignore the warnings from
    97% of the thousands of internationally qualified climate scientists, plus all
    reputable intergovernmental and financial agencies, and almost all nations
    whose economies are not dependent on revenues from exporting fossil fuels.

    The only mandate this government was given was to replace a
    dysfunctional Labor one.

    To claim otherwise is a falsehood, which will one day come
    back to haunt Abbott and his ‘advisors’, who apparently suffer from Cognitive
    Dissonance. Hopefully one day they will all be taken to the Hague and charged
    with Crimes Against Humanity, for that in my opinion is what they are guilty
    of.

    “Never underestimate the willingness of powerful
    people …. to sacrifice the common interests of humankind for the sake of a
    belief they refuse to abandon”. George Monbiot 16 September 2013

  • John Silvester

    Is there anyone in the mainstream press pointing to this government’s broken promises and misleading the public on energy policy?

    • Max Boronovskis

      Good question, I don’t know the answer because I gave up reading the mainstream press except in passing, like you I suppose. At a guess I would say no or very little. Every one I ask tells me they know the score, but it’s only because I tell them. Feels like it would be a great story doesn’t it? One that is getting smothered perhaps.

      • John Silvester

        I fear that it is seen as a Green issue. The Labour Opposition won’t push the subject for fear of being associated with the Greens. While the Greens have long been consistent in advocating for a low carbon economy, which can’t be said for the two major parties, it should be seen as a national issue, worthy of a national debate.