GREEN energy companies face an uphill battle to tap into the south-west’s renewable resources after Tuesday’s federal budget took an axe to climate change funds.
The $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has bankrolled wave energy projects in Port Fairy and Portland but is now set to be scrapped by the federal government.
Nearly $1 billion in contracts will still be met, including those in the south-west.
The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which has financed wind farms near Macarthur, and Portland and supported contracts for Portland wind tower maker Keppel Prince will also be abolished.
The government’s intention to axe both agencies in Parliament will make it harder for not only wind farms but research and development projects.
Geothermal group Hot Rock Limited was looking towards the fund to help establish a pilot project to tap into geothermal reserves in Koroit — touted as one of the most viable of such projects in the country. “As we sit a day after the budget there’s not a lot of joy in it for us ... it’s very difficult,” company chairman Dr Mark Elliott told The Standard.
“ARENA have considerable funds available.”
Dr Elliott said the federal government needed to support the renewable sector as it did with the gas and petroleum industry in the 1960s.
“The government did it for them and now we have a substantial industry,” he said.
“It depends what society wants to do about climate change. We believe the Koroit project has one of the best chances for commercial development in Australia.”
He said neither the state nor federal governments had “an appetite” to tackle climate change.
Asked where the company would now search for funds, Dr Elliott said “we’ll have to discuss that at the board level”.
In a statement, ARENA chairman Greg Bourne said the agency would operate as normal until it was repealed in Parliament.
“In the meantime, ARENA will continue to perform its functions under the ARENA Act, including accepting and assessing applications,” Mr Bourne said.
The renewable energy sector is bracing for a third policy blow if the Abbott government also decides to ditch the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which sets a national 20 per cent green energy goal by 2020.