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Clean energy bodies saved with new fund

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Malcolm Turnbull will keep two climate funds which Tony Abbott went to the 2013 election pledging to abolish.

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The prime minister on Wednesday announced that a $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund would be set up in July, jointly managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Turnbull said the government would “retain and reinvigorate” the CEFC and ARENA.

“We are promoting innovation and new economic opportunities, enhancing our productivity, protecting our environment and reducing emissions to tackle climate change,” Turnbull said in a statement.

He said projects could include a large-scale solar facility with storage in Port Augusta, South Australia.

“By offering innovative equity and debt products, the Clean Energy Innovation Fund can accelerate the availability of new technologies to transform the energy market, and deliver better value for taxpayers.”

Repower Port Augusta, which has been campaigning to replace Port Augusta’s coal-powered electricity plants with solar and wine, welcomed the announcement.

“This is a massive step forward for our community with the Prime Minister signalling the new Clean Energy Innovation Fund could be used to fund solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta” Lisa Lumsden Repower Port Augusta spokesperson said.

“With our coal station closing in May building solar thermal with Port Augusta would create badly needed new jobs for our community and on-demand clean, renewable power. This announcement gives real hope for our community going forward.”

ARENA will continue to manage its existing portfolio of grants and the $100 million large-scale solar round, but will be told to focus on energy efficiency and low-emissions technology.

Once the solar round is completed, ARENA will move from a grant-based role to a “debt and equity basis” under the new CEIF.

The $1 billion CEIF will be established from within the CEFC’s $10 billion allocation and will make available $100 million a year for 10 years.

Turnbull said the government remained committed to reducing Australia’s emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday the government had made “no change in the policy” to axe the CEFC.

However, federal cabinet agreed to the policy at a meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

Former treasurer Joe Hockey described the CEFC as a “giant $10 billion slush fund”.

The legislation to abolish the CEFC has been twice rejected by the Senate and is a double-dissolution trigger.

But Turnbull said on Monday he did not intend to use it as a trigger.

Abbott was forced to keep ARENA in place in exchange for the Palmer United Party’s support to bring in the Coalition’s Direct Action plan.

The Australian Conservation Foundation was generally supportive of the announcements.

“We hope this will be the first of many announcements on clean energy as we head towards the federal budget and election,” said ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

“This government has a long way to go to make up for the damage it has done to action on climate change through approving massive new coal mines and abolishing the economy-wide price on pollution, which was driving down Australia’s pollution levels.

“Since the carbon price was scrapped, Australian pollution has again been on the rise.

“Australia’s pollution increased by 1.3 per cent in 2014-15, sending 7,200,000 additional tonnes of planet warming pollution into our atmosphere in just one year.”

– with AAP

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