ARENA Needed To Address Solar Flagships ‘Mess’ : Milne

Australia’s Solar Flagships program has faced continual delays and problems, sparking a call from the Greens to expedite the setting up of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to take over the administration of the scheme.
  
Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne has blasted Energy Minister Martin Ferguson for his handling of Solar Flagships to date, an initiative designed to see construction of large-scale, grid connected solar farms.
  
“Martin Ferguson has mismanaged this process from start to finish, helping to keep renewable energy from challenging coal’s dominance,” said Senator Milne.
  
“It is vital to see ARENA get off the ground as soon as possible to take political interference out of renewable energy scheme design and decisions and put them in the hands of a statutory independent authority.”
  
Minister Ferguson returned fire, stating the projects were complex and the government had been consulting with industry.
  
“Comments criticising the government’s Solar Flagships Program from both the leader and deputy leader of the Greens today are dishonest and factually incorrect,” the Minister was quoted as saying.
 
One of the major issues threatening Solar Flagships Round 1 plants has been projects that have received Commonwealth funding not meeting key milestones; in particular failing to establish power purchase agreements with energy utilities for electricity the solar farms will generate.
 
ARENA will manage $3.2 billion in renewable energy investment and administer a number of programs. Aside from Solar Flagships, its scope will include:
 
– The Australian Solar Institute
– Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (Solar)
– Renewable Energy Demonstration Program
– ACRE Solar Projects
– Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund
– Australian Biofuels Research Institute (ABRI)
– Emerging Renewables Program
– Geothermal Drilling Program
– Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Program
–  Connecting Renewables Initiative1
 
ARENA is being established as part of a deal the Greens struck with Australia’s government during carbon price negotiations.