The Abbott Government’s job and investment-destroying attacks on renewable energy continue, with the Prime Minister ordering the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to cease investments in wind and rooftop solar projects.
Dubbed “revenge politics” and “an extremely vindictive form of industrial sabotage,” the decision comes just after the Government finally reached a deal with independent senators and Labour on reducing the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
Acting Greens Leader Senator Scott Ludlam said:
[The CEFC directive is] an extremely vindictive form of industrial sabotage. This is a Prime Minister who’s done everything possible to handcuff our country to the coal and gas industry, doing everything he can to wipe out a low-cost competitor.
Solar-supporting senators that have twice blocked the abolition of the CEFC are already speaking out about the attempted gutting of its activities so soon after the RET, as the Abbott government continues to put jobs and investment at risk by undermining renewable energy.
Uncertainty drives away investors, and less investment means fewer jobs – especially given the government’s stated desire for focus on “emerging” and not mature technology.
The CEFC exists to “facilitate increased flows of finance into clean energy”. It does not specifically focus on kick starting riskier emerging technologies, but its role is rather to expand the full breadth of the industry, allowing it to generate more than a $1 profit for every taxpayer dollar invested.
Compare this with the $3.5 billion the Government spends every year on fossil fuel exploration for products that cause health issues, death and climate change.
Australian Greens Deputy Leader Larissa Waters said:
Cutting the Renewable Energy Target effectively shut the door to investment in large scale solar, and now with this directive to the CEFC, PM Abbott is shutting the door to investment in wind power, and all the jobs that depend on it. He’s handcuffing us to the coal age – to polluting at home and overseas – and condemning Australians, our Pacific Island neighbours and people right across the world to worse health, a loss of species, damage to our natural environment and to our agricultural land and water.
Meanwhile there appears to be a growing rift and communications breakdown inside the government, with Environment Minister Greg Hunt showing himself to have no inkling the cut to rooftop solar support was coming.
On Sunday morning the minister tweeted that Government policy is to abolish the CEFC, but until then ensure it focuses “on solar and emerging technologies”.
This signals a growing rift but even worse for the government it also raises questions on the legality of Ministers giving direction to the CEFC, as under Section 65 of its Act they may not give a directive that is inconsistent with the object of the Act to facilitate finance flows into clean energy.
The Government’s ongoing stealth attack on renewables is a last ditch attempt to protect coal and gas in Australia, but there is only so much it can do to slow the unstoppable clean energy transition.