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Monday, September 12, 2016

ARENA briefly made Australia a world leader in renewables R&D. Time to #SaveARENA

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is facing a huge funding cut of $1.2 billion as part of the budget omnibus the Federal Government wants to pass. It is responsible for providing seed funding for innovative renewable energy projects. The latest funding round has just been released. It features substantial seed funding for 12 major solar projects and builds on innovative seed funding for renewables projects in previous years.

According to the Guardian, "The only time in Australia’s recent history that research and development for renewables outstripped R&D for fossil fuels was when the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) began making grants to renewables in 2013, the study of International Energy Agency figures found."

The research and development funding disparity has been investigated by the International Energy Agency. Here is Ben Oquist from the Australia Institute on this disparity:

“Australia has a long history of prioritising fossil fuels over renewables in R&D funding. ARENA turned this around, briefly making Australia a world leader in renewables,” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“While the Olympics results may have disappointed some sports fans, Australia’s renewable energy R&D performance has made the podium just once since 1979 – and that was thanks to ARENA, which the government now wants to abolish

“Worse still, our precious R&D dollars have been flowing into fossil fuels. As well as funding to coal and gas, more than $1.1 billion has gone into carbon capture and storage.

“While the long promised CCS technology is still far from a reality, renewables dominate new power generation globally.

“Australia's research and development funding should be aimed at industries of the future.

“Abolishing ARENA's grant funding will send Australia back towards the bottom of the international pack in terms renewable energy funding.

“But Government plans to cut ARENA’s funding while providing new funds for fossil fuel R&D risks putting Australia back decades in energy R&D,” Oquist said.

The current funding round might very well be the organisations last, if the Federal Government has it's way. Slashing the agency's funds would be tantamount to abolition of the agency. The Abbott Government sought to abolish the agency but were stymied in the Senate by the crossbench.

The Greens and Nick Xenophon Team have both made media statements that they would block the present ARENA funding cut in the Senate. So it comes down to whether Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Labor Party will step up and block the cuts to the agency.

This is a storify I compiled shortly after the ARENA press conference, held on Thursday September 8, 2016, of their latest funding round.

ARENA funds 12 large-scale solar projects = 420MW capacity

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