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Clean energy agency set for ‘real evolution’ in post-COVID economy

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The $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, which was announced last year by the Morrison government, comes as additional funding on top of the $10 billion allocated when the agency was established in 2012.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said CEFC’s impending work on hydrogen and grid reliability were “clear examples of the government’s ongoing commitment to accelerating new technologies and confirming Australia’s place as a global leader in low emissions technologies”.

Mr Learmonth said the CEFC, which has also made investments to support lowering emissions in agriculture, infrastructure, transport and waste management, would continue to attract private investment in job-creating energy and industry projects to help the economy recover from the coronavirus downturn.

“We are very conscious of playing a meaningful role in the post COVID recovery,” Mr Learmonth said.

“We’re getting back nearly a billion dollars a year, and we wrote nearly a billion dollars in transactions, there’s plenty of firepower there to address the stimulus.”

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In May, Mr Taylor accepted the recommendations from the King Review of the Climate Solutions Fund, which also included advice that government should change legislation governing the CEFC to a “technology-neutral remit so they can support key technologies across all sectors”. This would include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which along with nuclear power, the CEFC is currently barred from funding.

CCS can be used to remove the emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants, as well as gas-fired industry such as smelters.

Opponents of CCS argue the costly technology is not economically viable, extends dependence on fossil fuels and delays clean technologies like large scale wind and solar generation, or electric heating technology to replace gas in industry. Proponents argue that all technology should be considered in the transition to a low emissions economy and CCS can enable existing industrial infrastructure to continue to operate, as well as preserving jobs in coal and gas production.

The Morrison government’s response to the King Review said in-principle the CEFC should provide support to the widest range of low emissions technologies.

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It remains to be seen if laws will be changed to expand the CEFC’s remit.

Mr Taylor said the government’s “technology not taxes” approach to emissions reduction would be particularly important post-COVID.

“Reducing emissions without imposing new costs on households, businesses or the economy is central to the Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap,” Mr Taylor said.

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