While the Turnbull government’s second budget distinguished itself for its complete lack of provisions for – or even references to – climate change, RenewEconomy did notice that the papers flagged an increase in staff numbers at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, from 80 people to 101.
According to the CEFC, the staff increase noted in the budget reflects the green bank’s expectation that it will need more hands on deck to manage its “expanding and diversified” investment portfolio. And that’s because it is doing very well.
“The budget papers show that we are forecast to exceed the target $800 million to $1 billion of new contracted investments during 2016/17, which is a considerable step up in the level of investment over prior periods,” a CEFC spokesperson told RE in an email.
“As the CEFC’s investment portfolio progressively grows (currently $1.5 billion invested and $3 billion committed of the $10 billion appropriated to CEFC), the Board of the CEFC must ensure it has the requisite resources in place to properly manage those investments and associated business risks, on behalf of the Australian taxpayer, in an efficient and effective manner,” the email said.
The extra funds contrasts with the fate of the Climate Change Authority, which has been effectively defenestrated by the Coalition government. Once again, its funding does not extend beyond the coming financial year, as the Coalition repeats its desire to close the authority.
The CCA, established by Labor and the Greens to provide independent advice on climate targets and policies, has been embroiled in controversy in recent months, leading to resignations from key board members such as Clive Hamilton and John Quiggin, over what they described as compromised reports. But even these have been ignored by the Coalition.
The CEFC has also been on the coalition’s hit list, but is now tolerate given it has chalked up an impressive track record since its inception in 2013.
The LNP has shifted from describing the CEFC as a “giant green hedge fund” or “honeypot to every white-shoe salesman imaginable,” to claiming it as a major national success; one that marked its third year of operation with a record $837 million committed to new clean energy investments, contributing to projects with a total value of $2.5 billion, and achieving a 73 per cent year-on-year increase in the value of new investment commitments.
Indeed, under the management of the Coalition, the CEFC’s investment mandate has been broadened to include the Clean Energy Innovation Fund the Sustainable Cities Investment Program and the Reef Funding Program.
In addition, the green bank also performs a key industry research role, producing various market reports and making submissions to independent reviews.
“These functions are all critical to our role in catalysing and leveraging increased flows of funds into investments in the clean energy sector and all necessarily have an impact on CEFC staffing requirements,” the spokesperson said.
Interestingly, the CEFC does not receive any administrative funding from government towards these costs, but pays for them itself using revenue generated through its operations.