ARENA to get $1.6B in Australia’s 2020 Budget, but scope change reduces renewable benefits

Tonight, the Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered Australia’s 2020 Budget. Included in the budget, is a section titled ‘Investing in lower-emissions technologies’ [PDF].

The Government has released the first Low Emissions Technology Statement. This provides a roadmap to accelerate the deployment of low emissions and reliable technologies.

As we know from recent announcements, you have to read between the lines with this, reliable technologies is really code for non-renewable fuel sources.

The Government says they’ve successfully helped to develop and commercialise renewable energy technologies at scale, such as solar photovoltaics.

As many as 1 in 4 homes now has Solar panels on their roof which is a positive achievement, but the work isn’t done and further incentives would allow us to move closer to 1 in 3, or even 1 in 2 homes. Personally I was able to add solar to my home in Feburary, thanks to a Victoria’s Solar Panel Rebate. The next release of rebates occurs tomorrow, October 7th, where home owners will get $1,850 off the price of a PV system.

The Solar Homes program also offers a rebate off the purchase of battery storage, up to a maximum of $4,174. If these incentives were expanded to a national scale, virtual power grids could be created across the country and installation of solar and batteries would create the jobs the Government so dearly needs right now.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) was designed to help our country transition to sustainable energy sources. Large Scale Solar projects are booming and early investments contributed to a renewable energy boom that has seen $30 billion invested since 2017.

Instead of continuing that great work, the Government is changing the scope of ARENA. A new Low Emissions Technology Statement identifies the following priority technology goals for Australia: clean hydrogen, energy storage, both low-emissions steel and aluminium; Carbon Capture and Storage; and soil carbon.

To support these priority technologies, the Government announced a $1.9 billion package in this Budget, of which $1.6 billion will be provided to ARENA. While a $1.6 billion investment in ARENA would normally be news to be celebrated, that change in scope means much of it is unlikely to be spent on renewables.

The Government says the investment will be used to fund research and development to accelerate these new and emerging technologies. These emerging technologies don’t relate to how we bring down the cost of electric vehicles or battery storage, instead, they’re looking at Carbon Capture and Storage, an unproven technology.

Despite successful energy storage projects like Hornsdale’s big battery in SA, and a recent announcement that WA are doing the same, the Federal Government seems blind to this as an option.

With scale comes cost efficiencies and this is where ARENA can really help and we can see that demonstrated by their co-investment on electric vehicle recharging. Take Chargefox for example, who have been able to deploy $15 Million of projects, thanks to $6 Million in investment from ARENA.

At the end of the day, low emissions are no match for no emissions technology.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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