THE Greens are pushing for a multibillion-dollar ”finance corporation” to fund and roll out large-scale renewable energy projects as part of a deal on a carbon tax with the federal government and independents.
With talks on the climate deal at a critical stage, the finance corporation is shaping up as a key demand from the Greens, who want big subsidies for renewable energy in exchange for compromising on a starting carbon price and industry compensation.
Labor is continuing to prioritise household compensation and jobs, and insisting that assistance should be ”technology neutral” – meaning gas and clean coal should be part of the mix, not just solar or wind.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Greens leader Bob Brown met yesterday, and discussions are expected to continue over the weekend. There were separate talks between Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and independent Tony Windsor.
BusinessDay believes the proposed corporation – which could have its own board of directors and be independent of government – would receive a stream of money from the revenue generated by a carbon price. The corporation would also be able to access private capital to help it fund innovation, research and development and commercialisation of large-scale renewable energy projects such as solar, geothermal, wind and wave power.
The Greens want the corporation to focus solely on renewable energy.
The government wants to extend the proposal to other clean technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and ways of reducing the emissions intensity of natural gas projects.
Mr Combet said another priority was to adopt a ”neutral” approach to investing in technologies that could cut carbon emissions. ”We want to ensure that we cut pollution and invest in new clean-energy sources at the least cost to our economy, business and households,” he said after a meeting of the multiparty climate committee.
”Achieving cuts in pollution at least cost for the economy and households, neutral across alternative technologies, is also important.”
Business groups are also lobbying for generous carbon tax compensation for trade-exposed companies and heavy emitters.
Chief executives on the government’s business roundtable also met yesterday, with some expressing frustration that they were being excluded from talks with the Greens.
The Greens’ financing corporation follows a proposal by the government’s chief climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, in his recent updated climate change review, that $2.5 billion of the revenue generated by a carbon price every year should be used to aid innovation of clean technologies in the energy and transport sectors.
Earlier this year, the Clean Energy Council also indicated support for a body that would consolidate and direct the more than $6 billion on offer for renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage projects through existing government programs, funds and grants. The council also suggested a carbon bank could borrow money against the future earning of a carbon price.
In Britain, the Conservative government has established a green investment bank that will begin operating in April next year and has been given start-up funds of $4.6 billion. But the bank will not be allowed to borrow money until 2015-16, which has angered some British environmental groups.
The Sidney Morning Herald