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The Clean Energy Council has sought the “crucial” extension of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) funding in the next federal budget.

The Clean Energy Council said the future of ARENA needed to be secure so it could continue to drive the innovation needed to support Australia’s transition to a renewable energy superpower.

The agency’s funding is expected to be exhausted by the end of 2020, before its scheduled wind-up in 2022.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said, “We are calling on the Government to extend the life of ARENA for at least another decade, and to equip the agency with at least $2 billion over that time to ensure it can continue its work in accelerating the clean energy transition.

“ARENA has a $70 million renewable hydrogen funding program underway, but without further funding, all this investment will come to a grinding halt as the agency begins to ramp down ahead of its 2022 end date.”

Mr Thornton said ARENA had played an enormous role in demonstrating and proving the suite of clean energy technologies that will enable Australia to replace its ageing coal-fired power fleet.

“A big technology vision requires a strong innovation capability. We have seen first-hand the incredible impact ARENA had on large-scale solar by supporting the industry in its infancy and accelerating the cost reductions in these major capital investments. 

“That investment by the Australian Government is now paying off handsomely, with large-scale solar delivering the lowest cost electricity of any energy source in the country.

“ARENA has also played a pivotal role in showcasing the capability of large-scale battery storage, supporting research and development in world leading technology, enabling the integration of renewables into the electricity grid, and now in accelerating the development of a competitive clean hydrogen sector.

“Hydrogen presents Australia with an opportunity to become a clean energy superpower – shipping its low-cost sunshine and wind power across the world and creating a new zero-emissions export industry. But early stage projects face considerable commercial risks and many will never get off the ground without collaboration and support from the Australian Government.” 

Mr Thornton said the next five years would be critical for Australia to demonstrate early progress and “stake its claim as a leading clean hydrogen exporter”.

“ARENA is essential to building Australia’s innovation advantage, together with CSIRO and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and its role should only continue to grow with the Government’s increasing focus on technologies to drive emissions reductions,” Mr Thornton said.

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