CEFC plays it straight with investments in ‘gumboot’ technologies

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CEFC takes spending to over $200m with support for generation using fugitive emissions from coal mines and landfill – more gumboot than white shoe.

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The Clean Energy Energy Finance Corporation has rolled out the fourth (and fifth) of its major financing agreements for clean energy projects, and has once again taken to support what might be regarded in the renewables industry as plain vanilla projects. It has now officially committed to more than $200 million of projects.

The CEFC said on Tuesday it would provide $75 million in financing to waste coal mine gas and landfill gas specialist Energy Developments, adding to a $445 million facility that the company had secured last year from a consortium of seven local and international banks.

Some of that money may also be used for some unspecified remote hybrid renewables projects that could also attract support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The loan was offered on normal commercial terms with no concessionality.

The investment follows a $50 million contribution to the refinancing of an established wind farm (Macarthur), and $37.5 million in support for a $280 million financing syndicate for a new million-dollar wind energy project (Taralga), as well as a $50 million expansion of energy efficiency projects previously supported by Low Carbon Australia. (It also announced support for solar PV project for AACo.)

It seems certain that, at least in its initial stages, the CEFC is keen not to play into the Coalition’s characterisation of its activities as supporting ”all sorts of wild and wacky proposals that banks would not touch in a fit”, and which would “attract a horde of white shoe salesmen”, as Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb has described it on many occasions.

Attempting to capture fugitive emissions is about as far from “wild and wacky” as can be achieved – unless you dismiss climate science in its entirety. Its technology is closer to the gumboot brigade than the white shoe brigade.

That may be as equally disappointing to the Opposition that wants to disband the CEFC as it is to those who imagined it would funnel its funds towards ground-breaking technologies and first-of-its kind commercial projects. That will happen but will clearly take time. Word is, however, that the announcement of investment is some of the more “progressive” projects featuring emerging technologies – such as solar thermal or storage – is on the horizon.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates says the portfolio of loans announced so far highlight the role of the so called “green bank” in operating across a variety of sectors and helping to grease the wheels of clean energy and abatement projects – for whom finance has been one of the biggest barriers to development.

Yates said fugitive emissions from coal mines and landfill are potent greenhouse gases and using them to generate electricity that would otherwise come from higher emissions sources creates environmental and economic efficiency benefits.

EDL managing director Greg Pritchard said the extra funds would be used to make “faster progress” of emission reduction projects and enable the “faster implementation” of new projects.

CEFC’s finance facility is also intended for use in funding remote generation solutions involving hybrid technologies that use renewable energy sources. This may involve co-funding with ARENA as these technologies are not yet commercial, but offer significant potential for low carbon energy solutions for remote communities and mining companies.

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