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Australian Centre for Renewable Energy Bill 2010

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2008 - 2009

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL 2009

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Resources and Energy the Hon Martin Ferguson MP)

 



AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL 2009

 

The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE) Board and the position of Chief Executive Officer of ACRE.

 

ACRE is an initiative under the Clean Energy Initiative (CEI). It will complement the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and expanded Renewable Energy Target by supporting the research, development and demonstration of low-emission and renewable energy technologies.  The CEI also includes:

  • the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program, involving funding to support the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated carbon capture and storage projects in Australia; and
  •  the Solar Flagships Program, involving funding to support the construction and demonstration of large-scale solar power stations in Australia.
  • The Australian Solar Institute, which will support solar research and development and encourage collaboration between Australian researchers as well as with international solar researchers and institutions. 

ACRE’s objective will be to promote the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy and enabling technologies and to improve their competitiveness in Australia. It will achieve this by:

a)       developing and implementing a funding strategy capable of supporting projects along the innovation chain;

b)       encouraging additional investments, including investments from the private sector and State and Territory governments;

c)       managing the cost effective delivery of Government funded renewable energy and enabling technology programs;

d)      providing support and advice to governments, industry and the community on renewable energy and enabling technologies, strategies and related issues when requested;

e)       fostering collaboration between governments, industry and the research community on renewable energy projects;

f)        supporting growth in skills and capacity in renewable technologies for the domestic and international markets; and

g)       any other activities that it is directed to do by the Government to support renewable energy and enabling technologies.

Australian Government funded renewable energy technology programs have evolved in an uncoordinated fashion across agencies over a number of years.  To address this, and to provide additional benefits to stakeholders, ACRE will become the Government’s one-stop shop for Australian renewable energy businesses, consolidating a number of Government programs.

 

ACRE will become the central point of contact for support in the Australian Government for renewable energy and enabling technologies.  It will also bring together a large amount of information on renewable energy and enabling technologies and will allow for better tracking and bench-marking of outcomes. All new renewable energy technology programs are expected to be delivered through ACRE. A focus will be to build on the research and development funded through other bodies, such as the Australian Solar Institute and the Australian Research Council, taking technologies to further development, pilot or small-scale demonstration, and commercialisation.

 

The principal function of the ACRE Board will be to advise the Minister on renewable energy and enabling technologies.  This may include advice on:

(i)      strategies to fund and promote the development, commercialisation and use of renewable energy technologies;

(ii)     the funding of renewable energy technology projects and measures;

(iii)    the management of renewable energy technology programs;

(iv)    improving existing program delivery;

(v)     the provision of venture capital funding;

(vi)    priority areas for government support;

(vii)   establishing links with State and Territory government agencies and the private sector with a view to developing strategies for stimulating investment in renewable energy technologies.

 

A key activity of the ACRE Board will be to advise on the development of funding and promotion strategies for renewable energy technology development, commercialisation and use. These strategies may include new funding programs and new measures, such as marketing initiatives, business mentoring, and other general business support for the renewable energy industry. In terms of funding for promising renewable energy technologies, grants, loans, collaborative funding arrangements or other types of support may be considered.

 

The ACRE Board, with support from Departmental staff of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, will design programs and measures that are capable of supporting renewable energy technologies along the innovation chain, to help bring these technologies to market. A key expectation is that the ACRE Board will be innovative in its advice to Government on program design, ensuring that the Government’s investment is maximised, and projects are supported flexibly and creatively to build a solid portfolio of renewable energy and enabling technologies for Australia’s energy future.

 

 A key function will be overseeing the provision of venture capital funds to help grow promising renewable energy technologies. The ACRE Board will advise on how best to provide such funds.  In addition to supporting renewable technologies, the ACRE Board will investigate what support the businesses developing these technologies may need in terms of business skills, for example, and will provide recommendations to Government.

 

In order to provide final recommendations to the Minister or the Minister’s program delegate on the funding of renewable energy technology projects and measures, the ACRE Board will perform evaluations and assessments on the proposals for those projects and measures. This may be done by the ACRE Board, or, for matters requiring specialist advice, by external consultants.

 

Program management will be undertaken by ACRE. The ACRE Board may wish to review existing management practices and infrastructure and will advise on where improvements may be achieved.  Program management should be efficient and effective, and should enable the gathering of useful information on renewable energy and enabling technologies to inform the ACRE Board, the Government and the broader community, as required.

 

The ACRE Board will have access to a broad range of information on renewable energy and enabling technologies, through the programs ACRE manages, the stakeholders ACRE interacts with, and the projects it funds. This will enable the ACRE Board to have a key role in advising Government on the state of renewable energy technologies in Australia through knowledge of its own client base, such as optimum collaboration and network models for renewable energy technology innovation and commercialisation; barriers to renewable energy technology innovation and commercialisation; prospects for collaboration domestically and internationally; the impact of regulation, and standards, skills and training requirements for the renewable energy technology industry.

 

The ACRE Board will have the capacity to advise on priority areas for Government support; this may be particular stages in the innovation chain, or particular skills gaps in renewable energy technology businesses, for example.

 

While the ACRE Board will play a key leadership role in promoting renewable energy technologies, state and territory governments have a strong role to play in supporting renewable energy and enabling technology development. In addition to investing in promising technologies, they can assist with regulatory issues, site locations, and advice on what particular technologies are most appropriate for their local conditions. The ACRE Board is expected to form strong relationships with state and territory governments and encourage partnerships where possible in growing this important industry. In addition, the ACRE Board will play a key role in encouraging investment from the private sector, to help lower the cost of promising technologies entering the market.

 

The ACRE Board will be an independent body under the Minister for Resources and Energy, comprising a Chair, a CEO of ACRE as an ex-officio member and up to 6 other members.  The members will be appointed by the Minister based on their knowledge or experience in fields relevant to the ACRE Board's functions.  Staff assisting the ACRE Board will be employees of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, and will be employed under the Public Service Act 1999 .

 

The Bill also provides for the establishment of the position of CEO of ACRE.  The CEO will be an employee of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.  The CEO will be a key component of the ACRE leadership team, and will have a role in promoting renewable energy and enabling technologies. The CEO will administer ACRE on a day-to day basis.

 

Financial impact statement

 

This Bill will have no financial impact.



NOTES ON CLAUSES

Part 1 Preliminary

Clause 1 - Short title

Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Bill. 

Clause 2 - Commencement

This clause provides that the Act will commence on the day the Act receives the Royal Assent. 

Clause 3 - Definitions

This clause sets out the definitions of terms that are relied on in other provisions throughout the Bill.

The clause includes a definition of 'renewable energy technologies'.  These are technologies where the energy is generated from natural resources and which can be constantly replenished.  The definition states that 'renewable energy technologies' include 'enabling technologies'.  Enabling technologies are those technologies that enable renewable energy technologies to function more effectively within an electricity grid.

The other definitions are straightforward and do not require additional explanation.

Part 2 The Australian centre for renewable energy board

Division 1 Establishment and functions of the Board

Clause 4 - Establishment

Clause 4 is a formal provision establishing the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy Board (the Board).

Clause 5 - Functions

This clause sets out the functions of the Board.  The principal function of the Board is to advise the Minister about renewable energy technologies.  The subjects which the Board is to advise the Minister about include:

(i)      stra tegies to fund and promote the development, commercialisation and use of renewable energy technologies - these strategies may include new funding programs and new measures, such as marketing initiatives, business mentoring, and general business support for the renewable energy industry. Such programs and measures will be capable of supporting renewable technologies along the innovation chain. The Board will be expected to take an innovative approach to ensure that the Government’s investment is maximised;

 

(ii)     the funding of renewable energy technology projects and measures - the Board may evaluate and assess applications for funding under the programs that ACRE administers and, following the assessment process, can make recommendations to the Minister or the Minister’s program delegate on which projects or measures should be supported and what funding should be provided;

 

(iii)    the management of renewable energy technology programs - the Board will play an active role in ensuring the management of ACRE’s renewable energy and enabling technology programs is effective and efficient, and that appropriate information is collated for research purposes;

 

(iv)    improving existing program delivery - the Board may review existing management practices and infrastructure and make recommendations as to possible improvements;

 

(v)     the provision of venture capital funding - the Board will oversee the provision of venture capital funds to help grow promising renewable energy technologies and advise the Government on how to best provide such funds;

 

(vi)    priority areas for government support - for example, this may be particular stages in the innovation chain, or particular skills gaps in renewable energy technology businesses;

 

(vii)   establishing links with State and Territory government agencies and the private sector with a view to developing strategies for stimulating investment in renewable energy technologies - such investment will help lower the cost of promising technologies entering the market and encourage further investment as confidence builds.  The Board will aim to form strong relationships with State and Territory government agencies and the private sector.

 

The Minister may also confer other functions on the Board, by a direction in writing.

 

Subclause 5(2) provides that a direction given by the Minister which confers functions on the Board is not a legislative instrument.  This provision has been included for the assistance of readers because a direction under this clause is not a legislative instrument within the meaning of section 5 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 .

 

Clause 6 - Minister may give directions to the Board

 

Clause 6 outlines the circumstances in which the Minister may direct the Board to perform its functions.  Directions must by in writing and must be of a general nature only.  In order to ensure the independence of advice, the Minister cannot give directions to the Board in relation to the content of any advice that may be given by the Board.

 

Subclause 6(5) provides that a direction given by the Minister to the Board in relation to the performance of the Board's functions is not a legislative instrument.  The provision has been included for the assistance of readers because a direction under this clause is not a legislative instrument within the meaning of section 5 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003

 

Division 2 Members of the Board

 

Clause 7 - Membership

 

This clause sets out who the members of the Board will be.  The Board will have a Chair, the ACRE CEO (as an ex-officio member), and up to six other members.

 

Clause 8 - Appointment of members

 

Members of the Board (other than the CEO) will be appointed by the Minister in writing.  Members will be required to have relevant knowledge or expertise so that they can contribute to the functions of the Board.  These appointments are made on a part time basis. 

 

Clause 9- Term of appointment

 

This clause provides that a member is appointed for the time specified by the Minister in the instrument of appointment.  The period of appointment must not exceed 2 years, however, a member is eligible for reappointment. The Minister is able to make appointments for less than two years.

 

Clause 10 - Acting appointments

 

The Minister may appoint a member to act as the Chair should the Chair become unavailable for any reason to ensure that the functions of the Board can be progressed in the Chair’s absence.  A breadth of contributions to the Board can also be maintained by allowing the appointment of acting members when there are temporary or permanent vacancies.

 

Clause 11 - Remuneration

 

This clause provides that a member is to be paid remuneration determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, including any allowances.  The Remuneration Tribunal is required to determine remuneration for offices that meet the definition of 'public office' in section 3(4) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 .  This definition includes all offices established under laws of the Commonwealth.

 

 

 

Clause 12 - Leave of absence

 

Clause 12 outlines the leave provisions for members and the Chair.

 

Clause 13 - Disclosure of interests to the Minister

 

This clause outlines the requirements for members to declare interests. To maintain the Board’s integrity and to ensure that the Government has confidence in the advice it gives means it is important that members make the Minister fully aware of any interests, pecuniary or otherwise.

 

Clause 14 - Disclosure of interests to the Board

 

This clause provides that members must disclose their interests in matters being or about to be considered by the Board, so that the Board can manage any potential or actual conflicts.  This clause ensures that members are required to disclose any conflicts to the meeting and ensure that proper procedures are followed where conflicts are identified.

 

Clause 15 - Other terms and conditions

 

This clause provides for terms and conditions of office, not otherwise provided for in the Act, to be determined by the Minister.

 

Clause 16 - Registration of members

 

This clause outlines the formal arrangements for the resignation of members.

 

Clause 17 - Termination of appointment

 

This clause sets out the conditions under which the Minister may terminate the appointment of a member.

 

Division 3 Meetings of the Board

 

Clause 18 - Convening meetings

 

This clause outlines the provisions relating to the number and location of meetings of the Board.

 

Clause 19 - Presiding at meetings

 

This clause outlines the role of the Chair to preside at meetings or for members to appoint a member to preside in the Chair’s absence.

 

Clause 20 - Quorum

 

This clause outlines the number of members needed to form a quorum and the special circumstances when a member leaves the meeting due to a conflict of interest.

 

Clause 21 - Voting at meetings

 

This clause outlines the rules relating to making decisions on matters at meetings.

 

Clause 22 - Conduct of meetings

 

Clause 22 allows the Board to establish rules for the conduct of its meetings.

 

Clause 23 - Minutes

 

This clause requires the Board to keep minutes of meetings.

 

Clause 24 - Decisions without meetings

 

This clause allows the Board to conduct business out of session should it determine it necessary and outlines the rules for making decisions under these circumstances.

 

Division 4 Reports

 

Clause 25 - Annual Reports

 

The Board must report to Parliament through the Minister each year on its activities. 

PART 3 - Chief Executive Officer

 

Clause 26 - Chief Executive Office

 

This clause provides that the Secretary must designate a person within the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism to be a CEO of ACRE.  That person must be an SES employee and the designation must be in writing.

 

Subclause 26(3) provides that an instrument under clause 26(1) which designates a person as the CEO of ACRE is not a legislative instrument.  The provision has been included for the assistance of readers because a designation under this clause is not a legislative instrument within the meaning of section 5 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003

 

Clause 27 - Staff and consultants

 

This clause provides for staff and other persons to assist the Board.

 

 

PART 4 - MISCELLANEOUS

 

Clause 28 - Delegation

 

This clause is a formal provision allowing the Minister to delegate certain functions under the proposed Act.

 

Clause 29 - Regulations

 

This clause is a formal provision allowing the Governor-General to make regulations for the purposes of the proposed Act.