CEFC marks year of record investment, as industry embraces clean energy

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Clean Energy Finance Corp reports record $2.3bn of investments in 2017-28, as industry and financial markets embrace decarbonisation.
“The question now is not one of direction, but of pace.”

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The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has notched up a record year of investment in 2017-18, with the latest annual report from the federal government’s $10 billion green bank revealing a total of $2.3 billion in new finance commitments made across the year.

New investments included $1.1 billion in renewable energy, $944 million in energy efficiency, $100 million in transport and $127 million in waste-related projects – “demonstrating the diversity of our approach to finance and investment,” the CEFC said.

The report was tabled in Parliament late Wednesday, little more than two months after former PM Malcolm Turnbull excised emissions from the Coalition’s national energy policy – in a final act of capitulation to climate-denying forces from within and without the party.

But while the politics has gone backwards on renewable energy and decarbonisation, comments from both CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth, and chair Steven Skala, suggest everyone else is headed in the right direction.

Indeed, the CEFC has vowed to sharpen its investment focus on decarbonisation, after a year it says has “proved” that decarbonisation and profitably can go hand in hand.

“We see clean energy technologies embraced by home owners and small businesses; essential infrastructure projects and landmark property developments; innovative start-ups and institutional investors with an eye to the future,” Learmonth said.

“In 2017-18, our most active year of investment, we see a common thread in this activity: a focus on embracing technological innovation to cut energy costs and lower emissions.

“In the year ahead, we will sharpen our focus on the emissions impact of our investments – from the direct carbon reductions of projects we finance, to the indirect demonstration benefits of the projects and companies we invest in,” he said.

“While the pace of the clean energy transition varies from year to year, our investment pipeline is robust. We look forward to expanding our work alongside market leading businesses, entrepreneurs and developers for the benefit of the Australian community.”

It’s a timely message to a federal government that, in a previous iteration, tried its hardest to have the CEFC scrapped. To this day, it remains the Coalition Party line that deep emissions reduction cannot be achieved without a significant hit to the economy.

In particular, any push to drive the decarbonisation of Australia’s power sector – away from coal and towards renewable energy and supporting storage and smart technologies – have been slammed as reckless, and “economy-wrecking.”

In his very first weeks as federal energy minister, Angus Taylor told Sky News regular, radio shock jock Alan Jones, that federal Labor’s plans for 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and emissions reduction of 45 per cent would be “a wrecking ball to the economy.”

Skala – whose other professional titles include investment banker, lawyer and philanthropist – said the CEFC’s $2.3 billion of investments highlighted “that decarbonisation can be achieved profitably and effectively right across the clean energy sector.”

“This year has seen industry seizing the challenges and opportunities offered by decarbonisation and accelerating its consideration of emerging duties associated with carbon disclosure,” Skala said.

“The financial markets have also moved in this regard.

“The question now is not one of direction, but of pace.

“This means the CEFC will continue to have a significant number of opportunities available in its investment pipeline.”

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