Australian news, and some related international items

Clean Energy Finance Corporation now being used as Coalition election slush fund

logo CEFCHow the Coalition is using clean energy financing as an election slushUSA election 2016 fund
Some in the sector fear the government is trying to defund the Clean Energy Finance Corporation by stealth. The truth may be a little more mundane,
Guardian, , 20 June 16 

After trying in vain to dismantle the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Coalition is now using Labor’s $10bn financing scheme as an election slush fund, throwing its money at the Great Barrier Reef, at “smart cities” and even at the steel industry in South Australia.

These announcements left some clean energy sector experts crying foul, saying the government was trying to squeeze the CEFC for every last drop, and defund it by stealth.

That might be the case but the truth could be more mundane. The announcements probably amount to little, leaving the spending pledges bereft of substance – but equally doing little to harm the CEFC.

By anyone’s reckoning, the CEFC has been a success. According to its 2015 annual report, it invested $1.4bn, financing projects worth a total of $3.5bn, which would reduce 4.2m tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions annually. And it did all that while making a profit.

But under the Tony Abbott, who called the CEFC “Bob Brown’s bank”, the Coalition tried unsuccessfully to abolish it, tried unlawfully to stop it operating, and tried – also possibly unlawfully – to stop it investing in windfarms and small-scale solar.

When Turnbull became prime minister he conceded the government had failed to abolish the CEFC but stopped short of giving it his backing……

But now it is certainly playing a crucial role in Turnbull’s re-election campaign.

So far, more than $2bn of the CEFC’s money has been leveraged as election commitments. First Turnbull suggested up to $100m from the CEFC and EFIC (a similar organisation that finances export ventures) could be used to provide a loan for South Australia’s steel industry. Then last week $1bn was carved off for a so-called “reef fund”. And on Monday another $1bn of the CEFC’s money was used to fund Turnbull’s “smart cities” policy.

Together with Turnbull’s earlier move to defund the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and take $1bn from the CEFC to make a new Clean EnergyInnovation Fund in its place, John Grimes from the Solar Council – Australia’s peak solar industry body – is convinced this is all part of a covert plan to abolish the CEFC.

“Their agenda has been very clear all along, to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation,” Grimes said. “What Malcolm Turnbull is doing it is abolishing it by other means.

“He’s making a series of announcements where he’s trying to get kudos … but actually what he’s doing is taking the funding that is essential to push forward the renewable energy projects and help transition the economy, and using them for other purposes.”……..

“This is another politically driven, piecemeal policy that sees us yet again responding to a political need rather than building a decent plan for our future energy needs,” said Claire O’Rourke, national director of Solar Citizens, a group that represents households with rooftop solar.

She said these moves distracted from what the CEFC was really designed to do. “The global transition to renewables is already under way. Australia needs a national plan to harness the multibillion-dollar renewables boom and manage the orderly transition to 100% clean renewable power,” she said.

“Australia stands to gain an $800bn slice of the global renewable energy investment boom, and we will miss out on jobs, growth and investment if we don’t get on with it now – this is what the CEFC is really for.”

The plundering of CEFC funds – using it as an election slush fund – isn’t likely to hurt the clean energy industry much, but it is unlikely to do any good either.


June 22, 2016 - Posted by | election 2016

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