THE future of four regional clean energy projects are under threat after the new Coalition government announced plans to abolish the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The CEFC board will not approve new investments until a decision has been made on its future, but it will still meet existing contractual agreements.
Inverell’s Bindaree Beef biogas project and three biogas projects in Tamworth are under negotiation with the clean energy bank, which provides subsidised-interest loans for clean energy projects.
The Moree Solar Farm is the only guaranteed project across the region, after an agreement in July to provide $60 million for the development and construction of a 56-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant.
The regional projects are among more than 100 proposals in negotiation with the clean energy fund.
Federal funding for the Bindaree Beef biogas facility is still secure, but it is understood the meat-processing plant was in negotiation with CEFC for an additional project. Among the Tamworth projects under consideration was a Tamworth Regional Council project to generate energy from waste water.
“Water from the council’s sewage treatment plant is used to irrigate a crop for stock feed, but an energy crop could be used to help generate
energy into the grid, into the industrial area or into a commercial
greenhouse project. The project will be highly replicable for other councils in similar circumstances,” a CEFC spokesman said.
However, Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the biogas plant was a long-term project and, if developed, would hopefully use funding from state and federal governments.
“The biogas proposal that we’re looking at is in excess of $15 million,” Cr Murray said.
“We don’t believe it’s appropriate to attempt to fund those sorts of schemes with our limited community revenue.”
Biogas plants at chicken processor Baiada and Allied Mills, formerly Grain Products Australia, were also under negotiation. The Baiada biogas plant would be similar to a project at Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, which uses chicken manure and other organic waste from the egg production business to generate power.
“There’s a huge amount of potential in the Tamworth region because of the diversity of industries, from primary producers through to the manufacturing industries,” the CEFC spokesman said.
Retired New England member Tony Windsor said he was disappointed with the decision, but not surprised.
“We’re back in the game where anything will be short-term, rather than have any long-term outlook, whether that be broadband technology or climate issues,” Mr Windsor said.
Incoming New England member and deputy leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce said he made no apologies for the decision, but he’d do what he could to assist the businesses in their negotiation with the new environment minister.
“If a project is not under contract, then it’s up in the air. To reduce our debt there are going to be some hard decisions to make and I make no apologies for that,” Mr Joyce said.