The Federal Government has named corporate lawyer and former ABC director and Film Australia chairman Steven Skala as the new head of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The appointment was made along with that of three new directors – Leeanne Bond, Samantha Tough and Nicola Wakefield Evans – as the CEFC’s founding board was replaced after their terms expired.
The CEFC has committed some $4.3 billion since its inception – including just over $2 billion in its last year – in projects that have attracted a total investment of more than $11 billion.
Skala’s appointment completes an overhaul of the senior management and board in recent months, with Ian Learmonth succeeding founding CEO Oliver Yates and founding directors Anna Skarbek, Andrew Stock and Ian Moore all completing their terms.
Skala is also vice chairman of Deutsche Bank’s Australian operations and a former leading corporate lawyer, and has served on numerous boards of private, not for profit and government organisations. He has also worked on renewable energy financing deals.
But Skala is also a director of the conservative think-tank Centre Of Independent Studies, a trenchant critic of the CEFC. The CIS described the institution as a “waste of energy”, a “dubious political entity” and a “complete waste of money”.
“The lack of a clear mandate and the non-existent emissions effects (means) the CEFC should be scrapped,” former analyst Oliver Marc Hartwich wrote. “The money supposed to be spent on the CEFC would be better spent elsewhere—or even better not spent at all.”
Hopefully, Skala, and the rest of the CIS board, have moved on since that was written in 2012.
Bond is a former “engineer of the year” and serves on the board of Snowy Hydro and is deputy chair of Territory Generation; Tough is on the boards of WA utility Synergy and gold miner Saracen Holdings ; and Wakefield Evans is corporate lawyer who was a partner at King & Wood Mallesons and is a director of Macquarie Group, BUPA Australia and Lendlease Corp.
The appointments of three female directors will be welcomed by many in the industry, some keen to see more women in key positions in the energy industry, and slowly move on the “old silverbacks” hanging on to old energy ideas.
Women also head the Australian Energy Regulator and the Australian Energy Market Operator, and until recently the Clean Energy Regulator.
Environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg told RenewEconomy that he was delighted with the quality and diversity – including geographic – of the new board. He says another appointment will be made shortly.
Labor also declared its support for Skala and the other directors.
The CEFC manages a fund of more than $10 billion, and the 2016-17 year saw it commit almost $2.1 billion to 35 individual transactions with each dollar of investment matched by more than $2 from the private sector.
Frydenberg also said that the appointments to the new Energy Security Board would also be made soon, following agreement on its establishment by the COAG energy council.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.