The Morrison government has sunk an extra $1 billion into a new fund for “grid reliability” to be managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) but an energy expert has warned that the necessary legislative updates will allow the green bank to finance gas projects.
According to statements from federal government ministers, the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund will invest in new energy storage projects such as pumped hydro and batteries, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and grid stabilising technologies.
Funding will also be eligible for projects shortlisted under the Underwriting New Generation Investments program, which includes gas and coal projects.
It was reported by the Guardian Australia that both new coal power stations and coal power upgrades will be ineligible. It’s unclear if gas projects are also excluded.
The CEFC’s legislation will need to be updated so the fund can support “suitable projects” according to finance minister Mathias Cormann.
Nicky Ison, a research associate at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney and co-founder of the Community Power Agency, says the funding injection is a case of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because the updated legislation will allow the government to underwrite new gas projects with taxpayer money.
“The government is funding renewable energy, storage and transmission infrastructure updates with one hand, but manipulating CEFC’s legislation to underwrite fossil fuel projects with the other,” said Ms Ison.
She added that the $1 billion funding boost is “just PR spin and a distraction from the government’s attempts to force the national agency for clean energy to fund the dirty fossil fuels.”
“The government must abandon its plans to weaken CEFC legislation to have any credible claim to supporting renewable energy and climate action in Australia,” Ms Ison said.