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What’s in store for renewable energy in the new Federal Budget?

Renewable solutions have been put on the backburner in the 2021/22 Federal Budget, which has leaned heavily into gas production and emission reduction.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg splashed the cash in the latest Budget, aiming to undo the damage done by COVID-19 last year. But it seems there was little left in the kitty when it came to investment in renewable projects like wind and solar. Instead, more than $1.8 billion has been tipped into the sector, focusing on new technologies (primarily in gas production) that will reduce emissions.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the Budget would work towards “bolstering our position as a leader” in developing low emissions technologies.

“Our 2021-22 Budget measures will provide reliable, secure and affordable energy to all Australians, and increase investment in technology solutions to reduce emissions in a way that supports jobs and economic growth,” Mr Taylor said. 

Hydrogen push continues

Australia’s quest to become a hydrogen powerhouse has continued with a $24.9 million package to assist new gas generators in becoming hydrogen-ready. Almost $20 million will be spent developing a renewable energy microgrid incorporating hydrogen in the Daintree in Northern Queensland. 

Missed opportunity for infrastructure upgrades 

The state of Australia’s energy networks and their abilities to handle renewable power has been a hot topic of late. As more and more Australians turn to rooftop solar to reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprint, the burden on these networks has increased.

The rule-maker for the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) made a recommendation in March that homes be charged to export power back to the grid in a move designed to stop infrastructure from being overloaded during peak periods.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said that it was a missed opportunity that an infrastructure-led budget did not carry provisions to upgrade our electricity networks.

“The lack of transmission investment is now one of the most critical challenges facing Australia’s industry,” Mr Thornton said.

“It’s disappointing that in a ‘nation-building’ infrastructure budget, upgrades that will enable the access and security of clean, low-cost power have not been prioritised.” 

Gas still the priority for the government 

The government has doubled down on its commitment to gas solutions to lead the post-COVID recovery:

  • $58.6 million has been allocated for the sector, including “critical infrastructure projects” to meet rising demand
  • $5.6 million towards the National Gas Infrastructure Plan
  • $6.2 million to fast track the Wallumbilla Gas Supply Hub
  • $4.6 million for gas-reliant businesses to stay competitive, and $3.5 million for medium to long-term infrastructure. 

Assistance coming for those in the communities 

The Federal Budget did include a pool of $34.3 million for reform, including upgrades to transmission lines that will improve electricity delivery to rural and regional areas. 

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