The Australian government, reacting to charges that its policies were costing jobs in green energy, announced a new A$1-billion fund for clean energy investment. Critics denounced it as a financial shell game.
The Clean Energy Innovation Fund will “lend to, or take an equity stake in, emerging technologies,” the Guardian reports. However, funds will come from amounts already committed to the existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The new facility will be administered by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has hitherto provided grants for emerging technologies. ARENA will continue to manage A$100 million in grants to large-scale solar projects, but thereafter its old mandate will be retired and it will be limited to equity and debt contributions through the new fund. At the same time, the government said, the agency will take on “an expanded focus beyond renewable energy to enable energy efficiency and low-emissions technology options.”
The announcement comes a week after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the country’s clean energy sector shed more than 5,000 full-time jobs between 2011 and 2015, a 27% retrenchment. The shrinkage was widely blamed on the government’s decisions to defund ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Critics dismissed the latest announcement as a mere shuffle of existing funding. “The move to defund ARENA and create a ‘new’ fund using money already allocated to the CEFC, is nothing but a sleight of hand, and an elaborate ruse by [Prime Minister Malcolm] Turnbull to save more than A$1.3 billion,” RenewEconomy commented. And although “the new set-up will continue to support near-commercial projects, the technologies and ideas at the formative stage of the innovation process may be left stranded, without funding.”