The following is an open letter to parliamentarians from 182 members of Australia’s solar research community.
Dear Members of Australia’s 45th Parliament,
The federal government is proposing to strip the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of most of its funding, and with it its ability to make grants. This is an existential threat to renewable energy research, innovation and education in Australia.
We call upon all political parties to support the retention of ARENA.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry now provides one quarter of all new generation capacity installed worldwide each year and is growing at 20-30% per year. Together, PV and wind energy constitute half of all new generation capacity installed worldwide, and all new generation capacity installed in Australia.
A renewable energy revolution is in progress and Australia is currently at the forefront. However, debilitation of ARENA directly threatens our leadership position.
For 30 years there has been an Australian renewable energy funding agency in one form or another. This has led to phenomenal success in generation of technology and provision of education. The worldwide PV industry owes its existence in large measure to Australians who were supported by grants from government renewable energy agencies.
Billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to Australia in the form of dramatically reduced costs of PV systems, rapidly growing renewable energy business activity in Australia, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, royalties, shares and international student fees. For example, the Australian-developed PERC solar cell has annual sales of $10 billion and will soon dominate the worldwide solar industry.
If ARENA is debilitated then hundreds of people would lose their jobs within a year or two. In the longer term, Australia’s leadership in solar energy would vanish. This would be completely at odds with the government’s innovation agenda and its commitment at the Paris climate conference to double clean energy R&D by 2020 under the international Mission Innovation program, and with the ALP’s Climate Change Action Plan launched in 2015 at UNSW Australia, and reinforced by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at ANU also in 2015.
Support for research and innovation at universities lies at the heart of accelerated growth of the renewable energy industry. It supports later-stage commercialisation directly through technology development. Additionally, university research groups underpin education and training of engineers and scientists.
Echoing the words of another prime minister of a decade ago, Malcolm Turnbull has described budget repair (in which cuts to ARENA are lumped) as a “fundamental moral challenge” because debt should not be passed onto our children and grandchildren.
How ironic if parliament fails to appreciate the many costs to future generations of failing to address climate change now with solutions such as renewable energy.
UNSW Australia: Benjamin Phua, Henner Kampwerth, Mark Keevers, Ziv Hameiri, Catherine Chan, Craig Johnson, Kyung Kim, Li Wang, Mark Silver, Trevor Young, Richard Corkish, Robert Patterson, Binesh Veettil, Christopher Whipp, Dirk Konig, Renate Egan, Bram Hoex, Joyce Ho, Simba Kuestler, Martin Green, David Payne, Robert Taylor, Shira Samocha, Supriya Pillai, Timothy Lee, Udo Romer, Belinda Lam, Natasha Hjerrild, Evatt Hawkes, David Jewkes, Thalia Arnott, Leslie Lay, Muriel Watt, Carlos Vargas, Nathan Thompson, Robert Dumbrell, Daniel Lambert, Nicholas Shaw, Nathan Chang, Anita Ho-Baillie, Ben Wilkensen, Ned Western, Yan Zhu, Lingfeng Wu, Stuart Wenham, Ran Chen, Thilini Ishwara, Steven Limpert, Rolando Vargas, Brett Hallam, Allen Barnett, Santosh Shrestha, Xiaowei Shen, Xiaojing Hao, Saratchandra Tejaswi, Fangzhao Gao, Zhongtian Li, Ivan Perez Wurfl, Qiangshan Ma, Alec Tan, Murad Tayebjee, Ya Zhou, Liam Parnell, Luke Marshall, Jack Colwell, Mable Fong, Alan Yee, Lawrence Soria, Kian Chin, Kamala Vairav, Nancy Sharopeam, Graeme Lennon, Zoe Hungedfold, Bernhard Vogal, Jill Lewis, Ya Zhou, Erny Tsao, Feng Qingge, Yin Li, Thorsten Trupke, Alison Wenham, Ashraf Uddin, Chang Yan, Kaiwen Sun, Yajie Jiang, Yuansim Liao, Marjorie Owens, Shujuan Huang, Sassan Vahdani, Jialiang Huang, Brianna Conrad, Zi Ouyang, Jae sun Yun, Alex Li, Kate Lindsay, Nitin Nampalli
Australian National University: Andrew Blakers, Tom White, Marco Ernst, Fiona Beck, Jie Cui, Andres Cuevas, Erin Crisp, Chris Samondsett, Yimao Wan, Hemant Halmodi, Moshen Goodarzi, Sienpheng Phang, The Duong, Yiliang Wu, Xiao Fu, Kylie Catchpole, Chong Barngkin, Daniel Macdonald, Andrew Thompson, Josephine McKeon, Chang Sun, Kristen Anderson, Anyao Liu, Bin Lu, Matthew Staks, Bruce Condon, Jun Fpeng, Thomas Ratcliff, Hang Sio, Shakir Rahman, Judith Harvey, Klaus Weber, Ingrid Haedrich, Di Yan, Rowena Menkedow, Dale Grant, William Logie, Teck Kong Chong, Hieu Nguyen, Daniel Walte, Sachin Surve, Mark Savvnoeas, Harry Qian, N. Kaines, Nandi Wu
Monash University: Yi-Bing Cheng, Yasmina Dkhissi, Niraj Lal, Jianfeng Lu, Liangcong Jiang, Shannon Bonke, Wei Li, Gaveshana Sepadage, Wemon Mao, Feng Li, Xiangfeng Lin, Udo Bach, Dison Hoogeveen, Iacopo Benesperi, Francsco Paglia, Bin Li, Jiansong Sun, Chanjie Wang, Chunkiu Ng, Maxime Fournier, Boex Tan, Kira Rundel, David Mayeuleg, Jacek Jasieniak, Rebeeca Milhuisen, Masrur Morshed, Kedar Deshmukh, Susaha Frier, Mathias Rothmann
University of Melbourne: Ken Ghiggino, Roger Dargaville, Yann Robiou du Pont, Alex Nauels, Kate Dooley, Malte Meinshausen, Martin Wainstein
Other: Alan Pears (RMIT), Nicola Ison (UTS), Rhett Evans (Solinno), Michelle McCann (PV Lab Australia), Keith McIntosh (PV Lighthouse)
This letter was first published in The Conversation.