The federal budget was a welcome re-statement of support for renewable energy and energy efficiency and a recognition of their benefits, both economically and in terms of carbon abatement, according to the Clean Energy Council (CEC).
CEC Acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said “In this budget, the Federal Government has recognised the importance of the programs that are in place to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the industry welcomes that.”
However, the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) said that it is concerned the Federal Government’s decision to prematurely close the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme to new customers has not been addressed by the 2012-13 budget.
“This decision caused serious problems for the solar hot water industry, and left customers confused,” AuSES said. “AuSES is concerned the budget will fail to stem job losses in the solar hot water industry, and we will raise this as a matter of urgency with the Government.”Article continues below…
Clean energy stakeholders also questioned the Federal Government’s decision to remove the $1 billion Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program from the 2012-13 budget. This program was expected to provide an incentive for businesses that invest in eligible assets or capital works to improve the energy efficiency of their existing buildings.
“The program was an essential component of the package of complementary measures designed to drive energy and material efficiencies within the built environment,” Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew said.
“Without this program, the greatest opportunity to improve energy efficiency, at the least cost, will be missed.”
Energy Efficiency Council Chief Executive Rob Murray-Leach noted “In 2010, the Prime Minister said that this program would cut greenhouse gasses, create jobs and boost the competitiveness of Australian businesses.
“This backflip will slash investment and leave tenants with ballooning energy bills.”
Mr Murray-Leach added “The Government justified this budget cut by saying that the Tax Breaks would have been a more expensive way of cutting emissions than the carbon tax. This is absolute rubbish. This program would have helped building owners save energy and save money, which means that it would have lowered the cost of meeting Australia’s greenhouse gas targets.”
Other measures announced for the 2012-13 budget included:
- The provision of $37.1 million over four years to assist in establishing a nationally-consistent legislative framework for Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards to replace existing laws
- Funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – established on 1 July 2012 – which will receive more than $292 million in 2012-13, more than $344 million in 2013-14, more than $436 million in 2014-15 and more than $321 million in 2015-16.
Australian Geothermal Energy Association (AGEA) Chief Executive Susan Jeanes said that over the next few months, AGEA will focus its advocacy efforts on developing an effective and robust strategy in conjunction with ARENA to support the development of geothermal energy in Australia, based on the work it has already undertaken with the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy.
“ARENA has $3.2 billion in grant funding under its management, of which $1.8 billion is unallocated to programs or projects at this time,” Ms Jeanes said.
“AGEA will propose policy and program initiatives for ARENA that will enable the geothermal energy sector to take significant steps forward.”
Professor Ray Wills – who, at the time of the release of the 2012-13 federal budget, was Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia – noted that a key barrier to clean energy development over the past decade has been government inertia in delivering on funding projects.
“This is highlighted by the fact that the 2012-13 budget continues to support renewable energy and emerging renewable technologies, which is good news – but in a number of cases, with the same money that was carried over because of unspent funds from last year,” Mr Wills added.
“The Federal Government must show some ticker and ensure that funds allocated to support projects are delivered in a timely fashion, and avoid any delays through long drawn-out assessment processes, as has been the experience for the Solar Flagships Program.
“In addition, failing to cut fossil fuel subsidies – including the $9.4 billion diesel rebate for mining industries – is a missed opportunity.”