The Guardian

Morrison trying to 'emasculate' Arena by shifting focus to carbon capture, Labor says

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/09/2020 10:38:55 Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton
Anthony Albanese wearing a suit and tie: Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP © Provided by The GuardianPhotograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The Labor leader Anthony Albanese has declared the Morrison government is trying to "emasculate" the Australian Renewable Energy Agency by overhauling the mandate of the organisation so there is less focus on solar and wind, and more investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, microgrids and energy efficiency.

Responding to the Coalition's decision, Albanese said the government had never liked Arena or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. "They have tried to abolish it and now they are trying to emasculate it," he said.

"The fact is that this government doesn't support renewables even though what we know is the cleanest and cheapest form of new energy in Australia is renewables."

The Greens said they would oppose the changes. The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the government's argument that gas and coal need subsidies but wind and solar don't was "like taking money from the health budget and giving it to a tobacco company".

If Labor and the Greens oppose the overhaul, it is unclear whether the government would have the numbers to get parliamentary approval for the changes.

Key crossbenchers were reserving their positions on Thursday, but the Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff was positive.

Griff said it was important that Arena had its funding confirmed, because that agency, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, were "highly effective organisations".

The prime minister said on Thursday the focus of the organisation needed to change because "wind and solar stands on its own two feet now".

Morrison contended Arena's original mandate was "narrow-tracked for political reasons" and the future needed to be about emissions reductions, however that could be achieved.

"There are no good and bad emissions reductions," Morrison said. "There are only emissions reductions. Emissions reductions by different means have no greater or lesser moral qualities".

It was unclear who had assigned moral qualities to emissions reductions. The debate amongst experts is about which technologies deliver the fastest track to sequential decarbonisation which is commitment the Morrison government has signed up to.

The overhaul attracted a mixed response from renewable energy advocates. While the announcement contained broad directions but little detail, many were glad the agency would be refunded after months of uncertainty over its future, and that most of the money appeared to be earmarked for technologies consistent with its current mandate.

Anthony Albanese wearing a suit and tie: Labor leader Anthony Albanese: 'They have tried to abolish it and now they are trying to emasculate it.' © Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAPLabor leader Anthony Albanese: 'They have tried to abolish it and now they are trying to emasculate it.'

They included microgrids in regional and remote areas, helping homes and businesses improve their energy use and helping communities take up hydrogen, electric and bio-fuelled vehicles.

The government's overhaul includes designating a fund for carbon capture use and storage (CCS). Several observers noted $50m seemed relatively little support for CCS if the government was serious about developing the long-stalled technology.

CCS has failed to prove viable as a means of reducing emissions from fossil fuel power generation despite being pledged billions of dollars in funding, but is used in some industrial processes. Some of the new funding will be dedicated to exploring the "use" of captured carbon dioxide, including proposals to turn it into products such as building materials, rather than just pumping and storing it underground.

Kane Thornton, chief executive of industry group the Clean Energy Council, said the funding would play a crucial role in accelerating Australia's transition to becoming a "clean energy superpower" and help to develop a world-leading hydrogen industry.

"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," Thornton said.

Tristan Edis, a director with the advisory firm Green Energy Markets, said he was concerned the government appeared to be trying to strip away Arena's independence by directing which technologies should get certain amounts of funding.

He said several of the commitments were tiny when compared to what was needed to develop the chosen technologies. He said $70m for new hydrogen hubs was not be enough for "the front-end design work" of just one hub. By comparison, France and Germany had each committed $7bn.

Arena's mission since its creation in 2012 has been to back projects that can improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technology. With wind and solar electricity generation increasingly cost competitive, its list of recently backed projects include a virtual power plant, an electric vehicle smart charging trial, a scoping study for a planned NSW renewable energy zone and plan for using biogas from sewage to create hydrogen.

17. syyskuuta 2020 13:38:55 Categories: The Guardian

ShareButton
ShareButton
ShareButton
  • RSS
Suomi sisu kantaa
NorpaNet Beta 1.1.0.41819 - Firebird 3.0 WI-V6.3.6.33265

TetraSys Oy.

TetraSys Oy.