The Morrison government and Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s renewed attempt to redirect funds from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fossil fuel projects survived a Senate vote on Wednesday after One Nation sided with the Coalition. The reaction has not been faint-hearted.
The Senate blocked the Morrison government’s previous attempt to illegally siphon finds away from ARENA two months ago. But last Friday, the Taylor made a renewed attempt at shifting the remit of ARENA to include fossil-fuel related technologies including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen generated by fossil-fuels.
“From today,” said Taylor in a statement, “new regulations take effect that broaden ARENA’s mandate to enable the agency to play an important role in stimulating investment that will help achieve the Technology Investment Roadmap stretch goals as well as energy efficiency measures.”
Of course, this is not the first nor even the second time a Coalition government has tried to rout ARENA. In 2014 the government tried to scrap ARENA altogether, and in 2016 $500 million in ARENA’s funding was cut.
The Climate Council reacted strongly to the Senate’s maintenance of the government’s controversial changes. Climate Councillor, former ARENA chair, and former president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne, said “the Federal government’s latest move has sullied ARENA by allowing it to invest in CCS as well as hydrogen made with gas. This retrograde step will prop up fossil fuels using taxpayer money.”
“The nation’s renewable energy agency should not be spending money earmarked for renewables on CCS technology,” continued Bourne. “If any investment is made, it should be paid for by the fossil fuel industry. CCS is expensive, unlikely to be effective, and the industry has always over-promised and under-delivered.”
The same goes for hydrogen produced from gas, said Bourne, for “gas has no place in Australia’s zero emissions future. Only hydrogen made with renewable energy is worth investing in, as customers demand ‘green hydrogen’ in a decarbonising global economy.”
Instead, says Bourne, the government should be accelerating efforts to scale up and improve renewables and battery storage as climate solutions and job creators.
Just over a month ago, Greens, Xbench & Labor united to say there's no place for coal or gas in the Renewable Energy Agency.
Public money should go to saving our climate, public schools & hospitals, not coal & gas.
Now, Libs are trying to break ARENA again. We won’t let them.
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) August 3, 2021
What is more, John Grimes, Smart Energy Council (SEC) chief executive, told AAP that the energy industry body representing thousands of companies, may sue the Morrison government for this (yet another) blatant attempt to subvert the energy transition and prolong the obsolescence of fossil fuels.
“Our sector is now at the point where if you just roll over on these things it’s just never ending,” said Grimes. “This has been an ideological attack from the outset and you’ve just got to call it for what it is.”
Grimes is ready to take the government to court. “It contravenes the Act, the Act is really clear about the definition of renewable energy,” Grimes continued. “We are absolutely right now talking to legal representatives and our intention is if it has a good prospect of success we would launch legal action.”
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