The federal government has announced plans to launch a new $500 million low emissions technology fund to assist “complex, tech-focused startups” in commercialising ideas.
The new funding will be funnelled through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and the Opposition has claimed it is another attempt to change the rules to allow the organisation to invest in carbon capture and storage technology.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new fund on Wednesday morning. It is expected to total $1 billion, with half of the funding coming from the private sector, and will focus on technologies such as emission-reducing livestock feed, low emissions steel and battery cell improvements.
The fund will be managed by the CEFC and will be tasked with earning a return for the Commonwealth.
“Australia can become a world leader in creating low emissions technology that is both affordable and scalable, helping get emissions down while creating jobs,” Mr Morrison said.
“We are backing Australian businesses by creating an environment for their successful ideas to thrive in contrast to Labor’s approach to always wanting to tax success.”
This will fill a gap in the market where early-stage startups struggle to obtain funding, the Prime Minister said.
“It will address a gap in the market where small, complex tech-focused startups can be considered too risky to finance. We’ll step in,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s about supporting an idea, an idea that gets to a lab, then gets into a market, then into your home or your business. The fund will support Australian innovators to develop their intellectual property and grow their business in Australia, and it’s expected to earn a positive return for Australians. It’s a good bet.”
Legislation will be required to unlock the funding, and the government has pledged to introduce this to Parliament before the upcoming election.
This will likely include another attempt to expand the remit of the CEFC, which currently focuses on clean-tech innovations, energy generation and infrastructure, to include carbon capture and storage.
The Coalition attempted to do this earlier this year but was knocked back in the upper house.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese claimed that the new announcement is an attempt by the government to wedge Labor on this issue.
“It’s all about the politics…it’s about wedging Labor, not about the substance. This is the very government that abolished more than $500 million from the designated fund that was there when they came to office for carbon capture and storage,” Mr Albanese said.
“And now they’re saying, ‘oh, we will put a bit back, we’ll pretend it’s more, we’ll add in the private sector investment’. This government cannot be taken seriously when it comes to climate action.
“The history of this is he tried to abolish the CEFC, he tried to abolish ARENA, he tried to abolish the renewable energy target, he opposed electric vehicles, he opposed all of the new technologies that he talks about.”
The use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a net zero emissions plan has been controversial, with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelling it a “scam and a con”.
“CCS is a proven failure. There was a time when I was John Howard’s environment minister when we thought CCS would work,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Billions was invested but it has failed, other than in a few niche situations. It is being used by the fossil fuel sector as a distraction to delay the end of burning coal and gas.”
The new fund announcement came just a day after the federal government unveiled its long-awaited electric vehicles strategy. The plan included $178 million in new funding for charging stations and infrastructure, but ruled out any new subsidies, mandates or targets.
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