Feds back $15 billion fund to boost clean energy manufacturing

The Australian government’s plan to establish a $15 billion (USD 10 billion) national reconstruction fund to support domestic manufacturing in future industries and reduce the nation’s dependence on imports has become a reality with the investment vehicle rubber stamped by both houses of parliament.

The federal government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF), designed to boost investment in onshore manufacturing, including the production of solar panels, batteries and hydrogen electrolysers, will be established in law after the Bill passed through both the Senate and lower house earlier this week.

Federal Industry Minister Ed Husic said the fund is “one of the largest peacetime investments in Australian manufacturing capability” and the progress of the legislation paves the way for Australia to ramp up high-value manufacturing and jobs.

“The most successful modern economies are built on strong, advanced manufacturing capability,” he said. “The NRF will help deliver this for Australia. We want Australia to be a country that makes things, a nation that has faith in its know-how and ability to get the job done.”

The NRF will deliver co-investments in projects across a range of strategic industries including renewables and low-emissions technologies, resources value adding, agriculture, transport, defence capability, and critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

The fund will be administered by an independent board which will make independent investment decisions, modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s (CEFC) ‘co-investment’ model with government planning to partner with businesses and superannuation funds to unlock further potential private investment of more than $30 billion through the fund.

An initial $5 billion will be provided to the fund by the federal government with a further $10 billion made available in mid-2029. The government has earmarked up to $3 billion of the NRF’s initial $15 billion to support the manufacture of renewables and low-emission technologies.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Industry Minister Ed Husic.

Image: Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the NRF will revitalise industries that have been allowed to lag and provide a welcome boost for Australian renewable energy technology and know-how.

“Australia has all the resources that go into solar panels, batteries and other finished products,” he said. “We should be making them here. And that’s what this investment is all about. It will mean more secure jobs and more world-class products made in Australia.”

While the legislation has been widely welcomed, Glen Ryan, co-founder of Perth-based solar innovator Sunovate, said more needs to be done to provide surety for companies looking to develop clean energy technology in Australia.

Ryan, who is also behind Western Australian ocean energy company Bombora Wave Power which was moved offshore in search of financial backing and support, said government needs to establish hard targets to underpin the clean energy industry or risk loss of jobs, export potential and technology options.

“I have had to watch too many cleantech ideas including my own having to leave our shores to get a foot up,” Ryan said in a linkedin post. “We need hard targets to guarantee sustained project revenue opportunity and investable projects. We need hard targets to drive investments in the technology platforms to service the projects. Only then will we have the basis to consider local manufacturing opportunities.”

Ryan said the recent announcement by Melbourne-based company Wave Swell Energy that despite a successful trial of its technology it is unlikely to set up in Australia due to a lack of political and financial support is a perfect example of the challenges facing clean energy companies.

“Here we go again,” Ryan said. “Another Australian innovative wave energy device looking overseas for ongoing support.”

WSE said its UniWave200 platform had performed in a range of wave conditions.

Image: Wave Swell Energy

Wave Swell Energy chief executive Paul Geason told the ABC that he was delighted with the results of a 12-month trial of its technology off the coast of Tasmania’s King Island, and believed the technology would become an important part of future global electricity production.

Geason said the company is now aiming to scale up its operations but despite the success of the pilot, which was granted $4.03 million in federal government funding, the company will be setting its sights on the overseas market due to a lack of incentive from both state and national governments.

“We are an Australian, a Tasmanian invention. Australia’s an important market for us … we’d dearly love to set up here,” he said.

“Ideally, Australia would become home to a world-leading manufacturing capability for these wave energy converters.”

“But right now … there are other markets in the world that are further advanced. Frankly, it would be irresponsible for us not to participate in those opportunities.”

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