Australian Renewable Energy Agency may fund Solar Flagships runners-up

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) may provide funding for projects that didn’t make the cut for the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships program, according to a draft of the Agency’s first 3-year funding strategy, which goes to 2015. The pool of Solar Flagship ‘runners-up’ consists of about 52 projects who have already been to some degree vetted by the federal government during the application process.

This could be particularly good news for the troubled 150MW Moree Solar Farm, which was the original winner of the first round of applications for Solar Flagships but subsequently lost the title after the Moree Consortium failed to secure funding by a deadline and the gates were reopened to applications. In the end, the funding prize went to a project proposed by electricity retailer AGL, for a total of 159MW of solar PV capacity split between Broken Hill and Nyngan, NSW.

ARENA will also look to fund concentrating solar power (CSP) projects, giving renewed hope to Solar Flagships’ similarly ailing Solar Dawn project in Queensland. Following a change of government, the Queensland government reneged on a funding commitment of $75m which was necessary in the consortium’s being able to secure the federal Solar Flagships funding. Solar Dawn has vowed to stay in the game despite this loss; ARENA may come to the rescue.

The creation of ARENA was one of a suite of initiatives that were devised under the federal government’s Clean Energy Future plan and came into effect simultaneously with the Carbon Tax. ARENA is an independent statutory authority whose purpose is to ‘improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and supply of renewable energy in Australia’. It also oversees committed projects such as those under Solar Flagships.

Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said in a media release, “In seeking to increase the deployment of renewable energy we must focus our efforts on overcoming the significant challenges in reducing the costs of renewable energy technologies, and ARENA will help achieve this. By providing support to improve the competitiveness of renewables, ARENA will play a pivotal role in stimulating investment in Australian renewable energy researchers and businesses.”

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II