The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has shifted its focus in a bid to take Australia into the next phase of technology research, development, deployment, and commercialisation.
Projects which optimise the electricity transition, commercialise clean hydrogen and support the transition to low emissions aluminium and steel are now in the spotlight to receive ARENA funding.
ARENA was established by the Federal Government in 2012 to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Every three years, ARENA is required to develop and publish a general funding strategy that states its principal objectives and priorities for the provision of financial assistance.
ARENA chief executive officer Darren Miller said the new priorities took into account the key technologies and sectors where ARENA can have a real impact and where Australia can benefit in the shift to net-zero emissions.
“We are at the beginning of a critical decade for Australia and the world as we make the investments required to reduce emissions in line with international commitments,” Mr Miller said.
“To get to net zero, we need to invest today in the technologies that are going to transform our energy system and our economy in the years to come.”
According to the 2021 ARENA Investment Plan report, ARENA’s priorities reflected an overarching vision to reduce emissions by growing the share of renewables in the electricity mix, electrifying where possible, becoming more flexible about when electricity is used, and developing solutions for hard-to-abate sectors where electrification is expensive or not currently feasible.
The report included funding through the Advancing Renewables Program, which funds renewable energy projects at various stages of development and is continuously open for applications, and research support, which is available periodically through specific research and development programs and strategic research initiatives.
Additionally, the 2021-22 Federal Budget indicated that ARENA would be able to provide financial assistance in the form of debt and equity for up to $50 million.
The decision expanded the types of funding that ARENA was able to provide beyond grants.
According to the report, ARENA intended to use these instruments alongside, or in addition to, grants to provide the most appropriate type of funding to innovative projects.
ARENA advised any applicants to first develop a plan to demonstrate that the project contributes to one of its strategic priorities; consider the potential knowledge of the project, either to fill knowledge gaps or progress innovation in Australia; and assess whether the project fits in the innovation chain to see if ARENA is the right place to seek funding.
“With renewed funding and an expanded mandate, we are looking forward to continuing to work with Australian businesses and researchers to accelerate technological innovation to support Australia’s energy transition and to address the challenges of reducing emissions,” Mr Miller said.