Australian Solar Council slams plan to merge ARENA and CEFC

With their complimentary programs to support large scale solar and work on a range of off and edge-of-grid projects, ARENA and the CEFC have been supporting a breadth of solar PV projects in Australia. The Guardian Australia reported today that the Turnbull Coalition government is currently considering a plan to merge the two bodies.

The Guardian correctly notes that the merger would "bring some certainty to the organizations after the [previous] Abbott government sought to abolish them," however the ASC has criticized the reported move.

"This looks like a backdoor way to gut our most important renewable energy agencies," said ASC CEO John Grimes today. Grimes notes that ARENA and the CEFC fund different activities, with ARENA assisting early-stage technologies or applications to commercial viability, while the CEFC provides debt financing for technology deployment.

"Research and development, early-stage commercialization and innovation are not suited to loans," said Grimes. "It needs upfront capital funding." The outspoken solar lobby group head added that the CEFC has been "hamstrung by ongoing attempts to axe the agency and then to change its investment portfolio."

The Coalition government has unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation abolishing the CEFC. The Australian Senate has twice rejected the bill. The Abbott government announced that it would scrap ARENA, but in a compromise struck with Senators, the renewable-energy agency was retained, however with reduced or deferred funding.

The government has also not replaced ARENA board members as their terms expired. It is now government by the secretary of the Department of the Environment.