The proposed scrapping of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in tonight’s Federal Budget will be a backwards step for Australia’s drive to develop innovative new renewable energy technologies, and for Australian and international companies who have been working to bring investment to Australia, the peak body for the clean energy industry said tonight.

Clean Energy Council Deputy Chief Executive Kane Thornton said many companies had been driving innovation in exciting new technologies like large-scale solar, geothermal and ocean energy, and now the development and commercialisation of homegrown innovations will likely go offshore, along with the jobs and investment they would bring.

“A global race for renewable energy is on, and the removal of ARENA will see potential Australian and international investors now look to countries with much stronger support for renewable energy innovation, meaning we may well miss out on billions of dollars of investment and highly-skilled jobs,” Mr Thornton said.

“Abolishing ARENA is a backwards step for the ‘clever country’ at a time when job losses in traditional industries like the automotive and manufacturing sectors mean we need new, innovative industries to take their place and fill this void.”

Mr Thornton said ARENA was established with strong bipartisan support to fund research and development in renewable energy, but abolishing the agency will stall progress in these exciting technologies and simply increase our reliance on increasingly expensive energy sources, such as gas. This would be bad news for consumers who want more renewable energy and bad news for the Australian economy.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see the Federal Government withdraw support for ARENA, particularly when in opposition it had supported ARENA since its inception,” he said.

The changes also mean that the Million Solar Roofs program is unlikely to proceed, as it was previously understood to be funded by ARENA.

“The Million Solar Roofs program was a Federal Government election commitment, and it’s disappointing to see it abandoned before it had even begun,” Mr Thornton said.

“This is a blow to low income households which stood to gain from being able to access solar through the program, as well as for local manufacturing jobs that are created by the solar water heating industry.”

Mr Thornton said cuts to these programs meant it was more important than ever that the Renewable Energy Target, which is currently under review, be retained in order to continue to encourage the uptake of everything from household solar hot water systems right up to large-scale solar power plants.

“With ARENA and Million Solar Roofs now off the table, the role of the Renewable Energy Target in supporting new energy technologies is absolutely crucial. The target is already playing its role in encouraging new renewable energy projects at little cost to consumers – in fact, by 2020 the Renewable Energy Target will save every Australian household more than $50 on their power bill,” he said. 

“If the Renewable Energy Target is reduced or wiped out, all Australians will lose.”

Please contact Clean Energy Council Communications Officer Laura Szekfy on 0410 277 393 for more information or to arrange an interview.