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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 11558

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (10:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill is the second of two bills related to the establishment of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, that I am introducing to this session of parliament.

As described when introducing the ARENA Bill, ARENA is to be an independent Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 authority, tasked with oversight of around $3.2 billion in existing renewable energy grant funding currently managed by the Australian government and by Australian government funded renewable energy bodies such as the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the Australian Solar Institute.

This bill complements the main ARENA Bill by providing for the transitional and consequential activities that need to occur in order for ARENA to take over funding and administration of existing programs and projects transferring from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the Australian Solar Institute, or ASI, to ARENA.

This bill also provides for the wind-up of the Australian Solar Institute and the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy as a part of this transition process. This is a necessary step in the process to consolidate all of the various existing programs and projects supporting renewable energy technology innovation with ARENA, and is by no means a reflection on the performance of these organisations.

Under the arrangements proposed, ACRE is to be wound up, with ARENA to take over and expand on its responsibilities for advising the Minister for Resources and Energy. To give effect to this change the ACRE Act 2010 will be repealed upon ARENA's establishment.

It will be business as usual for the projects transferring to ARENA, with existing administration arrangements to continue until ARENA's establishment. Likewise, a number of programs, such as the Emerging Renewables Program and the Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund will continue. At the same time, it is expected that ARENA will determine how to best direct unallocated funding from programs such as the Connecting Renewables Initiative and the Solar Flagships program.

The timing for transfer of the ASI's projects, assets, liabilities and staff to ARENA is to be deferred until after ARENA's establishment, with the transfer to occur some time before 1 January 2013. This is to allow the ASI time to complete its work in selecting and funding projects from the submissions received from its recent call for funding applications, before focusing on necessary transfer arrangements.

Following this transfer, the employees of the ASI are to become employees of the department and will join other department staff in providing operational and administrative support to ARENA. These arrangements will allow ARENA to benefit from the existing expertise and skills of the ASI staff, as well as embedding an established process and culture which has been highly effective in securing projects and leveraging funding.

To ensure that ARENA is able to pick up and carry on the work of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the Australian Solar Institute, this bill also will allow ARENA to consider applications that are undecided at the time ARENA takes over program administration. For example, this means that, should funding applications be received to a program or project announced between now and when ARENA is established, this would allow for those applications to continue to be considered by ARENA.

As minister, I will receive the recommendation of the ARENA board with regard to appointment of the chief executive officer, or CEO, of ARENA. To allow appointment of the ARENA CEO ahead of ARENA's commencement, this bill allows for members of the ARENA board, once appointed, to provide a recommendation with regard to the ARENA CEO ahead of ARENA's establishment.

The arrangements in this bill will provide for a quick and seamless transfer of existing programs and projects to ARENA and will allow for ARENA to commence operation with minimal disruption and loss of momentum in support for renewable energy technology innovation.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.