Thursday, 15 May 2014

Environment Programs - Budget 2014 - ARENA's axing

On Tuesday, Joe Hockey, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, revealed the LNP's budget plans for 2014/15. The nice people at over at Info Aus suggested I delve into the data being released as part of the budget. I've focused on a few key agencies and changes - it's not an exhaustive summary of the impact on environment from the budget. For that, try here.

Perhaps the most significant cut announced last night was the axing of the clean energy investment body known as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA. They have a mandate to "improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and their uptake across Australia", and they've already invested nearly $1 billion in projects across Australia:

The current level of funding isn't at risk, but many more projects in the future will miss out on funding and investor confidence due to the axing of ARENA. Also to be repealed is the act that brought ARENA into existence - the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011. Embedded in this act is the original funding allocation for ARENA, broken down by year:

The legacy functions of ARENA will be administered by the Department of Industry, on a meagre budget, as outlined in Budget Paper No 2:

The impacts of ARENA's axing are wide-ranging. Employment in rural areas will be directly impacted by the loss of investment in clean energy technology, which is predominantly constructed in rural areas, rather than in cities.
"They go in the rural areas and farmers benefit from hosting these wind and photovoltaic installations because they get paid a rent for their land and they continue farming. It's like a second cash crop.
Then (there's) the local earth movers and the people who build roads and people who maintain these systems and install them. These are all people based in rural areas that depend on increasing the supply of renewable energy which, after all, is ARENA's main mission."
More alarmingly, some see the axing of ARENA as an ideological flag in the ground - an open admission by the government that they're acting to see every single job in the clean energy industry cease to exist.

One year ago, I thought it was close to impossible that politicians could choose to destroy an industry simply due to the fact that they don't like that industry.

Turns out I was wrong

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