Australian Solar Council and Solar Citizens slam government on plans to scrap ARENA

Australia’s Solar Council has launched a campaign to save the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, warning the federal government that dumping it would damage the solar industry and put Australia well behind the global pace on clean energy development.

ARENA, which the Abbott government has has pledged to scrap, along with any new funding, was established by the Labor government in 2012, with a 10-year plan to improve renewable energy competitiveness and supply. Solar Council CEO John Grimes argues that, with around $3 billion remaining in its budget, ARENA should continue to fund “big picture clean energy projects” the outcomes of which he says will benefit generations to come.

“Unless ARENA is saved these and other sorts of advances will be wiped from the drawing board,” Grimes said on Wednesday at the campaign’s launch.

Meanwhile, another Australian solar body, Solar Citizens, has attacked the government over its plans to dump ARENA, accusing the Prime Minister of lying about the cost of renewable energy, and using it as an excuse to attack the industry.

Solar Citizen’s national director, Lindsay Soutar, warned that the Prime Minister was missing the point that solar power was the only way Australians could take back control of their power bills.

“Australians love solar. They love the lower power bills. They love reducing their impact. And they are getting solar in record numbers.Australians are investing in solar because they value it,” he said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Soutar called on the Prime Minister to stop “attacking the five million Australians who have solar”, and open his mind to the benefits to voters of more renewables.

“Mr Abbott’s attack on the industry is relentless and demonstrates that claims that Australia is ‘open for business’  is complete rubbish.”

Soutar contradicts Abbotts view on the industry – that solar is expensive and increases costs for non-solar users – saying that his view is deliberately misleading and factually wrong.

“He needs to stop taking away people’s rights for more solar and he needs to stop adopting the policy of the big energy companies who are trying to protect a damaging, expensive and outdated business model.”

The government’s audit commission recommended ARENA be scrapped, despite a Coalition election commitment to retain it, but the reasons cited by the audit commission included the mistaken belief that the renewable energy target funded research and early technology development.

Clive Palmer last week said Palmer United Party Senators would vote to protect the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority, but said he had not yet formed an opinion on ARENA.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson