ARENA to get $1.4 billion as Coalition channels funds to CCS, hydrogen and pubs | RenewEconomy

ARENA to get $1.4 billion as Coalition channels funds to CCS, hydrogen and pubs

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ARENA to get $1.4 billion, but it and the CEFC will have mandates broadened to include the Coalition’s favoured “low emissions” technologies, including CCS.

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“Solar panels and wind farms are now clearly commercially viable and have graduated from the need for government subsidies and the market has stepped up to invest,” prime minister Scott Morrison said in a joint statement with energy minister Angus Taylor.

“We will reduce the cost of new and emerging technologies, not raise the cost of existing technologies or layer in new costs to consumers and businesses through mandated targets or subsidies.,” Taylor added.

“The government recognises the strong growth in emerging energy technologies that will play a role in Australia’s energy mix into the future. We need to get the balance right and our investment to re-energise ARENA will deliver that.”

Taylor said the focus of the new funding would be on reducing emissions outside of the electricity grid, including in manufacturing, transport and agriculture.

“We need to work out how to decarbonise industry. Carbon capture is one of many technologies that can decarbonise industry,” Taylor told the ABC. “If we constrain ARENA and the CEFC … two thirds of emissions (in the economy beyond electricity) will not be addressed.”

Included in the broader $1.9 billion funding package is $50 million for CCS – clearly the most controversial of the initiatives given the more than $1 billion already spent by various government grants on the technology that has so far failed to deliver any notable abatement.

The document released by the government says CCS projects will look at power generation, gas, manufacturing and cement. Potential CCS hubs include Moomba (SA) Surat/Bown Basins (Qld), offshore Latrobe Valley (Vic), offshore Darwin (NT), and the Pilbara/Carnarvon Basin (WA), along with Browse (WA).

Low Emissions Technology, a group funded by the coal industry, said it looked forward to gaining more government money to advance an integrated CCS project in Queensland, which it said would involve the “capture, transport and safe, permanent storage” of CO2 from a coal fired power station.

However, the Investor Group on Climate Change warned that fund managers were not interested in CCS in the power industry. “Institutional investors have little appetite to allocate capital to legacy technology such as fossil fuels with carbon capture, utilisation and storage in the electricity sector,” it said in a statement.

Another $70.2 million will be spent on establishing a “regional” hydrogen export hub, which could be cited in the Latrobe Valley (Vic), or Darwin (NT), north-west WA, Gladstone (Qld), Hunter Valley (NSW), Bell Bay (Tasmania) and the Spencer Gulf (South Australia).

Another $50 million will go to energy efficiency measures for homes and commercial buildings, and $95.4 million will go into a Technology Co-Investment Fund.

A further $67 million will be allocated on renewable and battery storage micro-grids for remote areas including mines, farms and communities currently reliant on expensive diesel.

The government has also allocated $74.5 million will given to a “future fuels fund”, which will focus on “refuelling stations” for hydrogen, electric or bio-fuelled vehicles.

Other funding initiatives include $24.6 million will go to the Clean Energy Regulator to expand and accelerate projects that can develop carbon credits.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said welcomed the new funding and an ongoing role for the agency. 
 
“We are delighted to see ARENA’s important role acknowledged with new funding, and we welcome a new era for ARENA,” he said in a statement.

He noted that ARENA has helped to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies such as large scale solar, grid scale batteries, pumped hydro, bioenergy, distributed energy technologies and hydrogen. Since 2012, it has supported 543 projects with $1.58 billion of funding that has leveraged nearly $5 billion in additional private and public sector investment.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was concerned that the government continues to throw money at fossil fuels.

“The $1.4 billion for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency over the next decade represents a funding cut, based on the agency’s historical funding, while expanding its work to invest in dirty technologies,” said ACF’s climate program manager Gavan McFadzean.

“Broadening the mandates of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to force them to invest in gas and unproven carbon capture and storage is an unnecessary and dangerous turn.

“Carbon capture and storage has already received $1.3 billion in taxpayer support with almost no commercial successes. It is not reliable or cost effective and should not be used as an excuse to prolong the use of coal, oil and gas at a time of already severe climate change.”

 

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