Labor promises to earmark $206m for CEFC and ARENA

Labor would dedicate $206 million to the development of solar towers and storage arrays, as part of its recently released policy plan to boost the role of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The plan, unveiled in Labor’s climate and clean energy strategy, is focused on restoring the role played by the two key institutions that have been targeted by the Coalition government.

Labor says it will remove the restrictions on investing placed on the CEFC, and it will protect ARENA – which the Coalition wants to strip of $1.3 billion in legislated funding – and give it more powers and encouragement to push into new technologies.

“This is the next frontier in lage scale renewable energy,” environment spokesman Mark Butler told ABC Radio National on Wednesday morning. Several international and local companies have proposed solar tower technology for Australia, including US company SolarReserve, for a 110MW solar tower just north of Port Augusta.

The Coalition has also cited potential support for a solar tower plant in Port Augusta, but it is conditional on the creation of a new fund, called the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, which is taking money from the CEFC, and removing the $1.3 billion from ARENA and its grant funding mechanism.

This was widely criticised, including by former ARENA chairman Greg Bourne, who said it removed a key support along the innovation chain for emerging technologies.

“We will restore a functioning market that has been demolished by Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, and partner with our scientists and inventors to support new ideas and technologies,” Labor said in its policy announcement.

It said ARENA had been highly successful, supporting 232 projects, and Labor would seek to provide “greater certainty, more flexibility and support throughout the innovation chain and the project life cycle.”

Labor also said there will be an additional $206.6 million set aside over four years for a “specific Concentrated Solar Thermal round.”

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson