Turnbull’s clean energy stunt

If you shake hands with Malcolm Turnbull, you best count your fingers to see whether they are still there.

In short, he’s “keeping” ARENA, except that it has no funds, its grant function will be terminated and organisationally it will be absorbed into the CEFC. He starting a new fund, called the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, a subsidiary fund of the CEFC, to lend out to bankable ‘innovative’ ventures, but the funding is less than is already there, and will be dribbled out at the princely rate of $100 million per year for the next 10 years so as “not to overwhelm the market.”

In other words, pretend you are brave and forward-looking, but don’t do anything that might disrupt coal’s predominance any time soon.

The focus will be on bankable projects that yield one per cent more than the government bond rate, compared with the CEFC’s target of 4 per cent above the government bond rate.

John Grimes is the chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, put it this way:

    The Federal Government has presented to the people of Australia what sounds like a fantastic announcement, $1 billion for renewable energy investment. It’s a bit like an exquisitely decorated Easter egg. The only problem is that it looks good on the outside, but on the inside it’s a rotten egg.

Greg Bourne, the former chairman of the ARENA, says innovation will have to look elsewhere, probably overseas:

    “If one looks at multiple ARENA projects that have been kicked off since 2012, a significant number of them required the grant to move things along the innovation chain,” Bourne told RenewEconomy in a phone interview on Wednesday.

    “That innovation chain does not start near commerciality. It starts earlier. If we are to be an innovation nation we have got to start earlier in the innovation chain, and that requires grant, equity and debt.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) were set up as complementary organisations by the Gillard government. ARENA gave grants to stimulate research and develop new clean energy technologies. CEFC lent funds to projects that would achieve a return on investment.

Abbott tried to nix them both, which required legislative change. The Senate has refused to oblige, with the CEFC legislation having been rejected twice.

ARENA still has a legislated spending program with $1.3bn in uncommitted funding over the next six years. Abbott/Hockey tried to axe the remaining funding in the 2014 budget. Turnbull has now confirmed Abbott’s policy.

Under Turnbull, the terms of last of the six external directors of the ARENA board have now expired without replacement, leaving only the Secretary of the Department of the Environment. However the remaining executives will now assess Clean Energy Innovation Fund projects which will be approved by the CEFC board. The ARENA name will be kept, but that’s all – the Easter egg is empty.

The CEFC was set up as a $10 billion fund with $2 billion per year from 1 July 2013 to 2017. It has already lent $1.4 billion for projects worth a total of $3.5 billion returning an average of 6.1%. Turnbull’s announcement of $1 billion in ‘new’ funding, is in fact old funding at a fraction of the rate.

Turnbull is trying to pretend he’s not Abbott, but is not making much of a fist of it. Giles Parkinson asks whether he should be wearing Abbott’s budgie smugglers too!


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6 thoughts on “Turnbull’s clean energy stunt”

  1. This offensive anti policy will not last for long. Perhaps just a few months. I think Turnbull is heading down Campbell Newman’s path.

  2. No solar panel on Turnbulls home.
    In fact the only Politician home I can find with solar panels is Di Natale ( sorry ) Richard.

    Perhaps a web site that displays the roofs of polies that advocate one thing for us but don’t do it themselves?

    Or at least a little twitter shaming , # showusyapanals.

  3. Have faith, Sambo, have faith!

    These enduring policies are set in concrete. It’s a wonder the Constitution wasn’t changed to accommodate them.

    Now, if the mass bamboozlement is being held on 2nd July, the celebration party will take up the 3rd July, the Act of Obsequiousness will take up all of 4th July, the Great Pay-&-Conditions Wreck will take up the 5th …. so the earliest date for wiping out all this climate readjustment nonsense and redirecting the funds to The Worthy will be on the afternoon of the 6th of July.

  4. I live in some of the safest LNP electorates in Qld. What we found in the local council elections was that LNP supporters were moving their votes to the Greens rather than the ALP. (The Greens ended up beating theh ALP in all booths in the electorates my branch campaigns for.
    The sort of crap that Tony Turnbull is doing re clamate action is likely to drive LNP supporters towards tha Greens while making the LNP more and more a Tea Party franchise.

  5. This offensive anti policy will not last for long.

    At first I was thinking that it was a policy only and would require legislative change. Seems not.

    The ARENA board can operate as long as a majority of board members are present. There is now only one, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, who as a senior bureaucrat will do as he is told.

    The CEFC has the money, and by now probably has a compliant board. In any case the CEFC in welcoming the new arrangements, has pointed out that under their act “the Australian Government can provide direction to the CEFC through an Investment Mandate regarding the type, rate and risk of investments the CEFC should undertake.”

    I’ve only just found the government media release which says;

    The Clean Energy Innovation Fund will target projects such as large-scale solar with storage, off-shore energy, biofuels and smart grids.


    ARENA will continue to manage its existing portfolio of grants and deliver the announced $100 million large-scale solar round, and will be given an expanded focus beyond renewable energy to enable energy efficiency and low emissions technology.

    The new fund will provide equity as well as debt funding, but it makes clear that the source of all the funding will be the existing CEFC funds, which are all borrowed.

    It doesn’t make clear whether CEFC will be able to continue to fund projects under its old brief. I expect not. That would be ‘overwhelming’ the market.

  6. John, that’s an interesting observation on voting changes. A recent poll found that climate change could be a vote-changer in a federal election.

    I heard recently that the Liberal Party was 60% conservative with the remainder made up of true liberals and libertarians. Then we have the National Party.

    I found the German state elections interesting, because the mainstream parties seem to be trending towards each other. In the US they seem to be strongly bifurcating, and the right splitting again.

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