Australian Govt slows renewables, but clean transition surges ahead regardless


The impact of the Coalition government’s relentless attacks on renewables has been highlighted again, with an annual survey from Bloomberg New Energy Finance finding that investment in large-scale renewable energy down under continues to stagnate. Two years after the Abbott government started systematically undermining confidence in the sector, Bloomberg said total new investment is languishing at $4.27 billion. A slight rise on 2014, but still well shy of the $7+ billion each year from 2010 to 2013 and well behind what is needed to reach the 2020 Renewable Energy Target. Since February 2014 a mere $15 million was invested in big wind, solar or other clean energy projects that were not otherwise supported by government programs such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – both of which the Turnbull government still plans to dismantle. Thankfully, small scale solar PV continues to surge in Australia like it is globally, while the fossil fuel price crash is helping to catapult renewable investment around the world to record levels.



Key Points

  • The Coalition government’s war on renewables has slowed clean energy investment, undermining jobs, raising emissions, and making the task to clean up Australia’s energy sector far harder. New data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance has highlighted the damage a government determined to fight the future can do, with the Abbott-led Coalition government overseeing a two-year stall in investments in large scale renewables. While the situation has marginally improved under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, it remains party policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This means confidence in the sector is likely to remain lacking, making the job of reaching the Renewable Energy Target harder, and hurting job development in a sector that the US, for example, has seen surge to employing 77 per cent more workers than coal mining.
  • Despite Coalition roadblocks, the renewable transition is still hastening in Australia as it is around the world. While large scale renewable investment has taken a hit, solar PV continues to boom in Australia, with bloomberg finding it attracted the fifth largest investment in small-scale PV in 2015 globall. $2.17 billion was spent on solar last year, putting Australia ahead of Germany, and behind the UK and Japan. Considering Australia is expected to become a world leader in the deployment of battery storage, it is hard to imagine anything but further booming growth for renewables ahead.
  • Cheap oil and gas are not stopping renewable development. While the Australian government has worked to slow renewable development and protect coal, wind and solar have ‘done the unthinkable’ and trumped fossil fuels to boom to record levels of investment in 2015. The reality is the renewable transition is inevitable, unstoppable, and as new Bloomberg data shows – happening faster than many (particularly those in the fossil industry) could have imagined. This transition will only hasten further as the Paris Effect sinks in.


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Key Quotes

  • “It can’t be understated that the actions of the Abbott government have destroyed confidence in the renewable energy market.Lenders in the market are almost all of the view that the political risks in the RET … have made it too risky to invest in.” – Head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia, Kobad Bhavnagri
  • “There was so much interest in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s large-scale solar funding that the short list of projects, out today, is worth more than three times the amount of funding available. But instead of boosting funding to match the interest, the Liberal Government has put the entire Renewable Energy Agency, as well as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, on the chopping block in Parliament. The employment and trade opportunities of the 21st century are in clean energy, not the dying coal industry.” – Greens leader Richard Di Natale
  • “These [global renewable energy] figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices; and above all they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity. And it is very hard to see these trends going backwards, in the light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.” – Chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Michael Liebreich

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