Leaving the ARENA – Australia has just one podium finish on non-fossil fuel energy R&D since 1979

Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world for renewable energy R&D. Data from the International Energy Agency puts Australia on the podium just once since 1979. 

Meanwhile, Australia has poured the vast bulk of our R&D dollars into fossil fuel. (See full medal tally below)

“Australia has a long history of prioritising fossil fuels over renewables in R&D funding. ARENA turned this around, briefly making Australia a world leader in renewables,” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“While the Olympics results may have disappointed some sports fans, Australia’s renewable energy R&D performance has made the podium just once since 1979 – and that was thanks to ARENA, which the government now wants to abolish

“Worse still, our precious R&D dollars have been flowing into fossil fuels. As well as funding to coal and gas, more than $1.1 billion has gone into carbon capture and storage.

“While the long promised CCS technology is still far from a reality, renewables dominate new power generation globally.

“Australia’s research and development funding should be aimed at industries of the future.

“Abolishing ARENA’s grant funding will send Australia back towards the bottom of the international pack in terms renewable energy funding.

“But Government plans to cut ARENA’s funding while providing new funds for fossil fuel R&D risks putting Australia back decades in energy R&D,” Oquist said.

Table 1 – Australia’s ranking among IEA countries for fossil fuel & renewables RD&D

Fossil fuel RD&D funding
(IEA ranking)

Renewable energy RD&D funding
(IEA ranking)

Dollar terms

As % of GDP

Dollar terms

As % of GDP

1979

7

6

12

10

1980

6

6

10

13

1981

7

6

10

8

1983

6

2

10

11

1985

6

6

13

11

1987

7

4

17

17

1989

5

3

13

14

1993

4

1

13

12

1995

3

2

15

18

1997

3

1

13

15

1999

3

2

10

12

2001

2

1

12

15

2003

4

3

13

14

2004

6

5

6

7

2005

6

5

13

13

2006

6

5

13

12

2007

6

7

11

12

2008

6

5

15

18

2009

3

2

10

16

2010

5

3

13

16

2011

5

3

6

8

2012

2

3

4

5

2013

4

3

3

1

2014

5

3

9

13

Career 

Gold

0

3

0

1

Silver

2

4

0

0

Bronze

4

7

1

0

Total

6

14

1

1

Notes: Not every country reports every year, with lower reporting for 2014, which for most countries is an estimate. For Australia 2014–15 figures are ‘finalised’, possibly from the Budget.

Source: IEA (2015) Energy Technology RD&D Budgets

IEA R&D

Source: IEA (2015) Energy Technology RD&D Budgets

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Anna Chang Communications Director

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anna@tai.org.au