Aussie renewables industry should feel ‘very supported’ under Turnbull: Hunt

Australia’s renewable energy industry should feel “very supported” under the leadership of new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, federal environment minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.

Hunt’s comments, made on ABC Radio National, also suggested the Coalition may have softened its stance on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Hunt told ABC Radio National on Tuesday that the Coalition – which had sought to ban the CEFC from investing in wind energy under the Abbott regime – may now support investment in emerging wind energy technologies.

Both the CEFC and ARENA had been slated for closure under Abbott, although both were saved from this fate by opposition in the Senate. They have been moved to Hunt’s portfolio since Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister.

Hunt today praised ARENA for its $3.2 million investment in a solar plant at Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite operations, the largest installation of solar to date at a remote Australian mining facility.

But Hunt’s most interesting comments came on the future of the CEFC, and the fact that it could be allowed to invest in emerging wind technologies.

He said the CEFC had a mandate to focus on emerging technologies, but there was no blanket ban.

“What it would do is to focus on solar and geothermal … and if there are emerging components in relation to wind such as new turbines or offshore wind then that might be an appropriate way,” Hunt said.

In theory, that could pave the way for investments in wind projects that may combine wind and battery storage, or wind and solar, such as the massive project in north Queensland.

Hunt said the renewables industry should feel “very supported” by Turnbull and his focus on innovation.

“What has changed is a greater emphasis on confidence and innovation in the renewable energy sector,” Hunt told RN.

“ARENA has been brought under the umbrella of the Department of the Environment to better coordinate investment in new renewable technologies, with a particular focus on solar and storage.”

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Giles Parkinson