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Energy industry stakeholders have welcomed the Federal Government’s proposed new funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled plans last week to inject further funds into ARENA and the CEFC, and introduce new legislation which would allow ARENA to invest in technologies to lower emissions outside of wind and solar.

ARENA Chair, Justin Punch, said that he was pleased that ARENA is seen as a key delivery agent for the Australian Government.

“It is critically important that through agencies like ARENA, we bring to bear the most effective tools and technologies to support the clean energy transition and help Australia reduce its emissions,” Mr Punch said.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, welcomed the new funding and an ongoing role for the agency.

“We are delighted to see ARENA’s important role acknowledged with new funding, and we welcome a new era for ARENA.

“There is still much work to be done but with an experienced team, industry knowledge and strong networks across a range of technologies and sectors, ARENA is well positioned to support Australia’s energy transformation and emissions reduction goals,” Mr Miller said.

The CEFC welcomed the additional funding, deeming it “critical” to enable ARENA to develop new and emerging priority technologies to the stage where the CEFC can provide investment support to accelerate further commercialisation and deployment.

The Government has also announced that it will expand the focus of both ARENA and the CEFC to strengthen our support for new technologies that can cut emissions in agriculture, manufacturing, industry and transport.

The CEFC also welcomed the expanded mandate, allowing both agencies to back technologies such as soil carbon sequestration, carbon capture and storage, the production of green steel and industrial processes to reduce energy consumption.

The CEFC said it is already pursuing investment opportunities in some of these areas with the new legislation helping to overcome barriers and further accelerate investment.

The Boards of ARENA and the CEFC will continue to be accountable for individual investment decisions and both agencies will continue to work closely together to advance Australia’s clean energy transition.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, also welcomed the news.

“ARENA has played an important role in driving renewable energy development over the past decade.

“This commitment from the Federal Government will ensure continued support for energy storage and renewable energy research, allow major industries to explore opportunities to adopt renewable energy and provide longer-term certainty to the development of a world-leading hydrogen industry.

“An extended ARENA and a renewed commitment to these initiatives will ensure Australia can take advantage of its enormous opportunity to become a clean energy superpower.

“While expanding ARENA’s mandate to include carbon capture and storage is a disappointing distraction, the vast majority of this new funding is consistent with the energy industry and investors’ strong commitment to renewable energy and energy storage.”

The Clean Energy Council has been campaigning for an extended commitment to ARENA so that it can play a key role in a Clean Recovery from COVID-19 and set Australia up to become a clean energy superpower.

“The clean energy industry looks forward to exploring the details of this announcement and working with the government on its technology roadmap and further policy support that will give increased investor certainty and guide the transition to renewable energy,” Mr Thornton said.

Federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, was less positive about the announcement, voicing his concerns in an interview.

Mr Albanese said the Federal Government was trying to “emasculate” ARENA by overhauling the mandate of the organisation, shifting the focus from solar and wind, to more investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, microgrids and energy efficiency.

Mr Albanese said the Federal Government had never liked ARENA or the CEFC.

“They have tried to abolish it and now they are trying to emasculate it,” Mr Albanese said.

“The fact is, that this Government doesn’t support renewables, even though we know the cleanest and cheapest form of new energy in Australia is renewables.”

As technologies have matured, ARENA said its focus has evolved from supporting pure renewable energy generation technologies to assisting with the integration of these technologies to support the operation of the system with ever increasing shares of variable renewable energy.

ARENA’s current investment priorities include a focus on integrating renewables into the grid, accelerating the uptake of hydrogen and supporting industry to reduce emissions.

“Technology and innovation are critical to the energy transition and to Australia’s efforts to reduce emissions and create new economic opportunities,” Mr Miller said.

“ARENA has played a key role in reducing the cost and increasing the supply of renewable energy for the past eight years. We look forward to continuing this important work with the next generation of energy technologies.”

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