Last night, the Senate defeated the Morrison government’s attempt to expand the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to include funding non-renewable projects.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s plan was to expand the scope of ARENA to fund carbon capture and storage projects and hydrogen produced from fossil fuels. Moreover, the Coalition also saw projects in the heavy transport, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, gas supply, water supply, waste services and data centre sectors that would also profit from tearing ARENA limb from limb.
Thankfully, the Labor Party, the Greens and cross bench Senators combined forces to block Taylor’s proposed changes in what Smart Energy Council (SEC) chief executive John Grimes called “a big win for the renewables industry and a big defeat for Angus Taylor and the Morrison Government!”
“These changes were illegal” Grimes added, “they were against ARENA’s founding Act of Parliament – and we were ready to take the Government to court on this issue.”
“Renewable energy bodies should fund renewable energy projects,” Grimes said finally, “it’s that simple.”
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy, Chris Bowen, took to Twitter to share the good news:
The Senate just voted to over-rule Angus Taylor’s regulation to waterdown ARENA’s commitment to renewable energy. The LNP keeps attacking ARENA and the CEFC and Labor will continue to defend them.
— Chris Bowen (@Bowenchris) June 22, 2021
According to The Guardian, the tide on the initial vote was turned when Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson returned to the chamber having missed the vote because of a “dicky hip”. With Whish-Wilson safely seated, and Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff’s absentee vote accounted for, the vote was retaken and Taylor’s subterfuge disallowed 28 votes to 27.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said in a celebratory tweet that the vote was “huge” and “public money should go to schools, hospitals and renewables, not coal and gas.” Bandt went on to agree with Grimes in calling the victory a “massive blow to this coal and gas-fired government… First the Liberals tried to abolish ARENA and then redirect its funds to coal and gas, but by backing the Greens motion, the Senate has just saved ARENA… A lesson here is that when we fight this coal and gas-fired Liberal government, we can win.”
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