“We will continue to invest in the areas that need it,” Mr Frydenberg said.
ARENA’s funding issue is being considered by cabinet, with Mr Taylor supporting additional funding. One option being considered is using profits generated by the government’s other main conduit of support for low-carbon technology – the Clean Energy Financial Corporation – to bankroll ARENA.
ARENA had $194 million in funds available for new projects as of the end of 2019, with the pipeline of projects seeking funds larger than that total. The total staff, now at the equivalent of over 90 full-time employees, will begin to be cut this fiscal year and decline out to the end of the legislated funding’s completion in June 2022.
“At this stage, we expect our remaining funds will be fully committed within the next 12 months,” said ARENA’s chief executive, Darren Miller.
“The future funding of ARENA is a matter for the government,” he said. “However, there is much work to do in the next few years and in the decade to come.”
Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler said his party had set up both ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corp and “both agencies have a central role to play as Australia transitions to net-zero emissions”.
“Part of the original design of both agencies included the option of CEFC returns funding ARENA,” he said, suggesting Labor may not object to that funding option if the Morrison government chooses it.
Mr Butler noted, though, that the Coalition government had previously attempted to abolish both agencies.
“The Morrison government has no credibility when it comes to clean technology,” he said.
ARENA’s Mr Miller said the agency’s new investment priorities, launched last September, were geared towards maximising the impact of its remaining funds “to help future-proof our energy system and economy and unlock Australia’s vast renewable resources”.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.