PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The resources sector has welcomed the federal government’s decision to expand the functions of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to support the next generation of low emissions technologies that will reduce emissions and create new economic opportunities and jobs.
New regulations will take effect on Friday that broaden ARENA’s mandate to enable the agency to play an important role in stimulating investment that will help achieve the Technology Investment Roadmap stretch goals as well as energy efficiency measures.
The roadmap identified five priority new and emerging technologies for government investment, including clean hydrogen, long duration energy storage, low carbon materials including aluminium and steel, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and new measurement technologies for healthier soils.
The government previously provided ARENA with A$1.4-billion of new, guaranteed baseline funding to support these new and emerging technologies, and an additional A$192.5-million to deliver a series of targeted programmes, including A$47.0-million to support large energy-using businesses to identify opportunities to adopt new technologies and increase productivity, and A$52.6-million for microgrids in regional Australia.
These programmes will create at least 1 400 jobs and deliver 16.5-million tonnes of emissions reductions.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said investing in technology research and development (R&D) was central to the government’s technology not taxes emissions reduction agenda.
“Getting new, low emissions technologies to economic parity as soon as possible is the only way to reduce emissions without imposing new costs on households, businesses or the economy.
“This change allows ARENA to support technologies that can reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy.
“These changes have received wide industry support from over 28 businesses, peak bodies, and climate change groups including the Business Council of Australia, the AiGroup, the National Farmers Federation, ClimateWorks Australia and the Investor Group for Climate Change, and ARENA.
“When it comes to reducing emissions, if it’s not technology it has to be taxes,” the Minister said.
The government has committed to invest A$20-billion in new energy technologies by 2030, to drive at least A$80-billion of total public and private investment over the decade.
This investment will support at least 160 000 new jobs and will be guided by the Technology Investment Roadmap process, and delivered by agencies like ARENA, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Clean Energy Regulator and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Since 2012, ARENA has supported 602 projects with A$1.77-billion in grant funding, unlocking A$7.75-billion of total investment, leveraging A$3.38 of investment from the private sector and other levels of government for every A$1 of Commonwealth funding.
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) on Friday said that ARENA’s ability to focus on emission reduction technologies for aluminium and steel, CCS, clean hydrogen, energy storage and soil carbon will give the agency renewed impetus in supporting a pragmatic approach to delivering real emissions reductions.
“This approach by the government also complements the extensive efforts of Australia’s diversified mining sector, which is already taking action and investing in the R&D, technologies and minerals that will be critical for decarbonisation,” said MCA CEO Tania Constable.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has called for politicians on all sides of the political divide to back regulations expanding the investment remit of ARENA, with CEO Andrew McConville saying it would help the country to reach net zero emissions.
“Climate change should not be used as a political weapon and politicians shouldn’t ‘pick winners’ when it comes to protecting the environment. Supporting these measures demonstrates support for practical steps to reduce emissions and help the environment,” McConville said.
“All technology, including hydrogen and CCS, should be on the table to help reduce emissions. Just as government investment in renewables has fast-tracked projects, this would do the same and create thousands of jobs in the process.
“The global oil and gas industry is leading the world in the practical deployment of CCS and hydrogen. In Australia, the oil and gas industry has been at the leading edge of researching and deploying CCS and greenhouse-gas storage technologies,” McConville added.
He noted that natural gas with CCS was a pathway to a large-scale clean hydrogen industry.
“Australia’s liquefied natural gas export success means the Australian upstream oil and gas industry has the technology, expertise, commercial and trade relationships to make, in particular, hydrogen exports a reality.
“Developing a local hydrogen industry could enable lower emissions both in Australia and internationally, reduce energy costs, deliver energy security, together with new employment and manufacturing opportunities.”