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Australian Government To Downsize Renewable Energy Agency

Tom Arup, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Abbott government will cut funding to Australia’s $3 billion renewable energy agency by $435 million, details of its carbon tax repeal legislation reveals.

The Coalition had flagged a cut to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) when it released its pre-election costings, but at the time refused to detail how big it would be.

Before the election, a spokesman for Treasurer Joe Hockey said of the ARENA cut: “As a result of the state of the budget due to Labor’s continuing mismanagement, it is necessary to make reductions.”

ARENA was set up to fund renewable energy projects and research and had a budget of $3 billion. It drew together funds from existing grant programs and has helped to finance projects such as solar and wave energy.

Along with the $435 million cut, the legislation also enacts a deferral of $370 million announced by Labor in the 2013 budget to the agency, until the next decade.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government was committed to the agency and improving the competitiveness of renewable energy in Australia.

‘‘It has also been clear about its intention to achieve savings from programs associated with the carbon tax,’’ he said. ‘‘ARENA will have over $2.5 billion in funds to manage, which represents a significant investment in renewable energy sources to 2022. The agency board will determine how it will offer its programs.’’

An ARENA spokeswoman said in a statement that the announcement did not affect the agency’s funding for the current year or existing projects.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Tony Mohr said: “The axing of $435 million from ARENA will starve research and development of clean energy in Australia, moving us to the back of the global race for clean tech.”

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