Australia to Miss Out on Billions of Dollars in Renewable Energy Investments and Jobs

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The conservative Abbott government has managed to get rid of Australia's last major program for renewable energy in its latest budget. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dumped the country's energy assistance program and several other climate and scientific research projects.

The Coalition has chosen to favor an "asphalt economy" with a massive road construction programme and continue support for the mining industry rather than allocate more funds on renewable energy.

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered the new budget on May 13 also mentioned the axing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which had the task to help bring new and emerging technologies into production and support the country's world-class solar research.

ARENA will only be given a measly budget of $15 million to be used in the next two years to fund new projects. It will also continue to maintain funds of $1 billion for 190 projects that are mostly for research and development which have been contracted since 2012.

The Abbott government has decided that ARENA will be absorbed into the Department of Industry despite ARENA Chairman Greg Bourne's statement that the agency will continue to its duties until a repeal bill is passed in Parliament.

The renewable energy agency is expected to continue its work as it is mandated to do. It will look into 190 proposals estimated at $7.7 billion, with majority of them from miners who are interested in ARENA's $400 million off-grid programme, according to reports.

The Abbott government has allotted $2.55 billion for over 10 years for the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the anchor of the prime minister's Direct Action policy.  Analysts and bankers described the ERF as a "laughable attempt" and "wishful thinking" on the part of the Coalition to reach its emissions reduction target by 2020.

Aside from ARENA, the Abbott government has cut $21.7 million of more than four years through the integration of the National Environmental Research Programme and the Australian Climate Change Science Programme to form the new National Environmental Science Programme.

Australian Solar Council's John Grimes has described the recently released budget as a "boulevard of broken dreams" for the renewable energy industry. WWF Australia's Kellie Caught said the Abbott government's budget is an attack on the country's renewable energy programme.

With Australia dumping support for renewable energy, Clean Energy Council Deputy Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the scrapping of ARENA will prompt potential investors to look for other countries that have strengthened its clean energy initiatives. Thornton added that Australia will "miss out on billions of dollars" on renewable energy investments and job opportunities. 

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