Australian news, and some related international items

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) survives and thrives

logo-ARENAARENA was set up in 2012 by the Gillard government to boost the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies in Australia, and to increase the supply of renewable energy
ARENA: the renewable energy agency, Government News,  by  on December 8, 2014. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) may be on death row but it is certainly not staggering like a man condemned.

Having announced $2 million funding for a renewable biomass project last week, ARENA’s CEO says the organisation has no intention of stopping any time soon.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in the May budget that the government would axe the statutory organisation, grab its unallocated $1.3 billion project funding and roll any of its leftover functions into the Department of Industry.

Since then, the organisation — which can only be dismantled by repealing the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011 — has been fighting for its life.

Australia’s federal Lower House voted on September 1 to repeal the act and abolish ARENA, but the ensuing stalemate in the Senate has meant a stay of execution for the ardent champion of renewable energy.

Indeed while the government’s original plan might have been to eliminate  ARENA, expectations of its death now appear exaggerated. The body was granted a last minute reprieve after  Palmer United Party Senator Clive Palmer struck a deal with the government to retain ARENA; but to cut its project funding by $435 million – which also covers some of the organisation’s operating costs – and defer $370 million, in return for backing the carbon tax repeal.

Corman,-Matthias-monsterThe effect is that the public service now has what amounts to zombie agency: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has made no bones about the fact he wants to see  ARENA  scrapped, he just doesn’t have the numbers in the Senate to do it.……………

When Government News spoke to ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht, he said the organisation was still firing on all cylinders.

“We still have the money. We are still accepting applications and making grant awards,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We’re very much in business. We are governed by a commercially orientated board and the board is very focused on making good decisions around projects but they are making decisions. We have allocated a significant amount of money since the budget announcement, it’s certainly over $100 million.”

Asked whether the federal government was putting pressure on ARENA to stop spending money, Mr Frischknecht said it remained independent from the government and was focused on carrying out its remit.

“ARENA operates under its own act … it doesn’t allow the government to direct us so they really haven’t done that.”………

But Mr Frischknecht did not deny that the cloud hanging over his agency had had negative results.

ARENA has lost about 40 per cent of its 100 staff since the May budget announcement and the public sector recruitment freeze has closed down recruitment avenues, except for internal redeployments and specialist contractors, he said.

“We have had a significant reduction in staff in the last few months, some related to the Budget and some related to the uncertainty. We’ve have lost about 40 per cent. The reduction of staff really limits our ability to pursue new initiatives, having new projects and new funding rounds but we’re trying to rebuild our staff.

“It doesn’t make things easy, however we operate under the act and we are committed to fulfilling our obligations under the act.”

It also seems as well that ARENA staff are starting to feel like they may have dodged a bullet……………….

The board too appears back to its old self after earlier reports that it was being gutted in preparation for a Department of Industry takeover.

There are currently five board members: three independent external members, Secretary of the Department of Industry, Glenys Beauchamp and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Industry, Martin Hoffman.

If the worst was to happen and ARENA was abolished the federal government has said it would  honour all existing contracts……….

ARENA was set up in 2012 by the Gillard government to boost the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies in Australia, and to increase the supply of renewable energy.


December 10, 2014 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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