ARENA has insufficient funds for one million solar roofs  

We mentioned recently that funding for the one million solar roofs programme was looking unsteady. The government committed to providing a $500 rebate in support of installing solar panels on one million solar roofs capped at 100,000 homes per year for the next ten years. The responsibility fell to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fund the programme as well as having its funding cut by the Prime Minister’s office, leaving a severe budget shortfall for new and existing renewable projects.

To fund the one million solar roofs programme would require $150 million of ARENA’s funding allocation for the next three years. Six months after the announcements were made ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht has told the Senate Economics Committee that only $106 million of their modest budget remains after forward estimates. He also told the committee that the agency still hasn’t received any direction on the million solar roofs programme.

At $50 million per year, the agency could at best fund the programme for two years before needing its operating budget increased, requiring the Abbott government to reverse its original decision to slash their funds.

Frischknecht also told the Senate Commitee that ARENA will be funding as many as four major renewable energy projects in addition to their pre-announced projects at Nyngan and Broken Hill. At $300 million dollars and covering 250 hectares the Nyngan solar farm will be ten times larger than the current largest solar farm in Australia, making it the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

Both solar plants are co-funded with energy giant AGL (recently named one of Australia’s highest emitters of CO2) but with a question mark hovering over ARENA’s cashflow surely at least the Broken Hill project will need to be reconsidered. A recent media release from AGL showed that construction began on the Nyngan plant began in January and is expected to be operational by mid-2015, but the Broken Hill plant will not be breaking ground until mid-2014 with an expected completion date of late-2015.