Turnbull's "innovative" crippling of ARENA

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Greg Hunt cutting the ribbon at an ARENA solar project (image via @GetUp).

Following on from the destruction of the CSIRO, the Turnbull Government plans to cripple the Australian Renewable Energy Agency's (ARENA) funding. We have reproduced an open letter from academics at UNSW and ANU urging public support to save this vital agency.


Australia’s endangered solar research 

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT plans to strip the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of most of its funding as well as its ability to make grants.

This is an existential threat to renewable energy research, innovation and education in Australia.

After the fiasco involving CSIRO climate scientists, we now have a potential fiasco in mitigation of climate change.

Remarkably, the ALP, which established ARENA when in government, may allow this to happen.

Why ARENA is important

We call upon all political parties to support retention of ARENA.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry now provides one quarter of all new generation capacity installed worldwide each year and is growing at 20-30 per cent per year. Together, PV and wind energy constitute half of all new generation capacity installed worldwide and all new generation capacity installed in Australia. A renewable energy revolution is in progress and Australia is at the forefront. However, debilitation of ARENA directly threatens our leadership position.

For 30 years there has been an Australia renewable energy funding agency in one form or another. This has led to phenomenal success in generation of technology and provision of education. The worldwide PV industry owes its existence in large measure to Australians who were supported by grants from Government renewable energy agencies.

Billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to Australia in the form of dramatically reduced cost of PV systems, rapidly growing renewable energy business activity in Australia, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, royalties, shares and international student fees. For example, the Australian-developed PERC solar cell, has annual sales of $10 billion and very rapid growth — and will soon dominate the worldwide solar industry.

If ARENA is debilitated then hundreds of people would lose their jobs within a year or two. In the longer term, Australia's leadership in solar energy would vanish. This would be completely at odds with the [Turnbull] Government’s innovation agenda and its commitment at the Paris climate change conference to double clean energy R&D by 2020 under the international Mission Innovation programme — and with the ALP’s Climate Change Action Plan launched in 2015 at UNSW, and reinforced by Bill Shorten at ANU also in 2015.

Support for research and innovation at universities lies at the heart of accelerated growth of the renewable energy industry. It supports later stage commercialisation directly through technology development. Additionally, university research groups underpin education and training of engineers and scientists.

For more information on how to help save ARENA see GetUp! here and SolarCitizens here.

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